The Role of the HPKCC Board in Harper Theater & Harper Court Development

A service of Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, its website hydepark.org, and its Development, Preservation, and Zoning Committee. Chairman Jay Ammerman. President Jane Ciacci. HPKCC Contact.
Join the Conference
and support this work! Membership Letter 2011.

Home. HPKCC Current and navigator. Harper Court Redevelopment home and navigator (including to other papers and initiatives of HPKCC on Harper Court and a complete record of the emergent project since 2005).
Harper Theater Redevelopment
.
Development Hot Topics. Development home and navigator. Southside Preservation Action Fund (SPAF) news.
About HPKCC. Recent Board Actions and From the President's Desk. August 2010 Reporter (Harper Ct. synopsis). Index of Conference Reporters.

[Web editor's note: New 400 Theaters calls it's project "5 screens" but it is expected some will be used mainly for live performance and for meeting or conference space. As of June 2011, refurbishment was going at full pace mainly in the 53rd building.
The author's conclusion from the Harper Theater undertaking and its synergies with Harper Court planning and other adjacent retail happenings (the object of all parties being the revitalization of the 53rd business corridor) is an extremely important one, showing that the 53rd/Harper undertaking can be treated as a kind of mini-"demonstration" project, an echo of those Hyde Park and surrounding communities undertook 60 years ago:

"Recent TIF Advisory Council Meetings have highlighted the synergies that appear to be stemming from both projects. The announcements of the Five Guys Restaurant, the Five Screen Movie Theater, and the Hyatt Chicago @ Hyde Park suggest that it is possible for new development and preservation to flourish in a complementary way."

From the June 2011 HPKCC Conference Reporter (Vol. 17, No. 2)


The Conference in Action:

Focus on Development and Preservation

The Role of the HPKCC Board in Harper Theater & Harper Court Development

by Jay N. Ammerman
HPKCC Immediate Past President and board member [and Development, Preservation, and Zoning Chair]

When Jane Ciacci succeeded me as President in October 2010, she asked me to chair HPKCC's Development, Preservation and Zoning Committee and continue to track the Harper Court and Hyde Park Theater projects. During my term as President, I followed these projects with great interest and concern. In the August, 2010 Reporter, I highlighted concerns related to the rush to secure TIF Advisory Council Approval for the Harper Court Redevelopment. What I did not publicize at that time was the role that HPKCC was playing in persuading the University of Chicago to preserve the Hyde Park Theater and office buildings along 53rd Street and West of Harper Avenue.

In case you missed the University of Chicago's January 10, 2011 press release, here is a recap:

As recently as 2009, University of Chicago representatives were making starkly different statements in public community meetings. They were claiming that the Harper Theater buildings were structurally unsound and should be demolished.

HPKCC representatives disagreed and decided to tackle this issue head-on but with discretion. Then President George Rumsey wrote a letter to James Hennessy, University of Chicago's Director of Commercial Real Estate Operations, to propose that the University consent to a structural engineering assessment of teh buildings that would be funded by a Southside Preservation Action Fund grant that Jack Spicer had secured. HPKCC's proposal was that the results of the study would be shared with teh University for comment before it was released to the public.

There were a number of meetings held with Mr. Hennessy. Attendees included George Rumsey, Jack Spicer, and Ruth Knack, President of the Hyde Park Historical Society. By this time I had succeeded Rumsey as HPKCC President and agreed to continue to shepherd the Conference's efforts.

The University agreed and the structural study was completed in November, 2009. The study's finding was that the Hyde Park Theater building was structurally sound and could be preserved. It was acknowledged, however, that there would be considerable interior and exterior repairs required.

In early 2010, HPKC released a copy of the structural report and the Hyde Park Herald covered the news.

The fate of the buildings continued to be in doubt for a long time. You may recall that the University had constructed scaffolding along 53drd St. and Harper Avenue. And they remained in place while confidential negotiations continued with respect to the Harper Court Redevelopment.

Frequently I would check in with James Hennessy and ask if he had any progress to report. He reassured me that the University was serious about the potential preservation of the Harper Theater and office buildings and on January 10, 2011, I was delighted to hear the good news.

Recent TIF Advisory Council Meetings have highlighted the synergies that appear to be stemming from both projects. The announcements of the Five Guys Restaurant, the Five Screen Movie Theater, and the Hyatt Chicago @ Hyde Park suggest that it is possible for new development and preservation to flourish in a complementary way.

The HPKCC Preservation, Zoning, an Development Committee will continue to monitor these two projects and keep the community posted.

Top