Harper Court Sale 2, March-June 2006

Presented by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and its Development-Preservation-Zoning committee and website hydepark.org. Join the Conference!

The Harper Court pages:
Harper Court Sale (home - current and additional internal and outside links)
Harper Court History
Harper Court Sale 1 (November 2005-March 2006)
Harper Court Sale 2 (March-May 2006- This page)
Harper Court 3- (following months)
Harper Court- Community Ideas and Principles for HC future and Request for Proposals
HPKCC speaks out on Harper Court's future, sale, process
An alterative draft RFP and letters of comment on HCAC's guidelines- Gary Ossewaarde
May 2006 Conference Reporter Extra on Harper Court
full reports, data from forums. In PDF
From Neighbors United to Save Harper Court

In this page: May 8, March 13 and HPKCC Harper Court Forums records and commentary


City asked by Alderman in March to develop a joint RFP for the city parking lot and Harper Court

Hyde Park Herald, April 5, 2006. By Tedd Carrison

The Chicago Department of Planning has offered to link a city-owned parking lot that adjoins the Harper court Shopping Center to a Request for Proposals (RFP) to purchase and develop the complex, Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (
4rth) told residents at a public [sic] meeting March 28.

Preckwinkle said she suggested that joint public/private RFP in a meeting with the planning department March 22 t attract developers to the shopping center at Harper Avenue and 52nd Place. This comes six week after negotiations between the Harper Court Arts Council, which owns the center, and downtown-based JDI Realty LLC fell through. she said the RFP process would allow for community input, which was conspicuously absent during the JDI talks.

The city lot, which occupies 55,000 sq. ft. along Lake Park Avenue, north of 53rd Street, is zoned for a commercial planned development similar to Harper Court, according to department of planning spokeswoman Connie Buscemi. Its addition to the Harper Court RFP surprised many of the roughly 25 residents who attended the March 28 meeting hosted by the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference.

Gary Ossewaarde sits on the HPK-CC board as well as the 53rd Street Tax Increment Financing District parking committee, which advises the alderman on various parking issues, including the Lake Park/53rd lot. He said the parking committee did not discuss the lot's inclusion in the Harper RFP at its most recent meeting March 13. "It was not something that was said but there was some speculation involved," said Ossewaarde.

Jo Reizner, assistant vice president for the U. of C. real estate operations office and chair of the TIF parking committee, said, "We have not specifically spoke about the city lot but it is still a goal of the TIF to have a new garage built in that general vicinity."

She said the lot's location at two major thoroughfares makes the site more suitable for retail development than strictly parking purposes. "I think there is a higher and better use for that lot than a surface parking lot," said Reizner.

After the March 28 meeting, Preckwinkle said, "The idea was to include the parking lot [in the Harper Court RFP] with the idea that a developer would want parking or perhaps a new development that would include parking on the site." She would not offer her own preferences for the property...

Alderman Preckwinkle (4th) has been meeting with the Chicago Consultants Studio regarding a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Harper Court Shopping Center, she said last week.

CCS is the same private urban planning group that is working with the University of Chicago to take proposals for the shuttered Harper Theater adjacent to Harper Court.

Tim Brangle of CCS said he did not know how the Harper Court and Harper Theater RFPs would relate, but "there is obviously an interest in having the right developer for the entire area."

Kim Goluska, CCS president and CEO, said Preckwinkle asked him to draw up criteria for the Harper Court RFP because she was pleased with the job he did on the Harper Theater RFP. He said it is unlikely that the theater and the shopping center will be developed together because the theatre is a "stand alone" property but the two are not completely separate. "What happens on the university property will be a positive influence to push along development at Harper Court and the parking lot," said Goluska.

He said the addition of the parking lot to the RFP should also simplify development of the site, because it allows for major changes like an uninterrupted Harper Avenue through 52nd Street.

Harper Court website invites input on new development. Harper Court announcement April 5 2006 in Herald

The Harper Court Arts Council has established an Internet address.. whereby Hyde Park and Kenwood neighborhood residents and community organizations can submit their ideas about the redevelopment of the Harper Court Shopping Center. The arts council board of directors continues to work with 4th Ward Ald. Toni Preckwinkle, who is assisting in the preparation of a Request for Proposals (RFP) by the city of Chicago Department of Planning.

The RFP will be available to real estate developers who are interested in enhancing the retail life of Harper Court. The draft of the RFP will be available for public comment prior to its release. The tax increment financing (TDIF) meetings regularly held by Ald. Preckwinkle will continue to provide a public forum to keep the community informed.

The Harper Court Arts Council, which will make the final decision about the sale of Harper Court, is committed to balancing the needs of managing a commercial real estate property with its original mission to support and promote artistic efforts and cultural organizations in the Hyde Park-Kenwood community.

Proceeds from the sale for Harper Court will be invested with a highly regarded investment banker, and will be used to support non-profit cultural organizations that contribute to the quality of life in the community...

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Reports on the May 8 TIP meeting re: Harper Court

By Gary Ossewaarde

Alderman Preckwinkle noted that the Arts Council is required to make changes in its form and function by the Attorney General 's office. The city is handling preparation of the RFP and the city lot is included. Due to these and other factors beyond the Arts Council's control, a draft RFP will not be ready until the July 10 meeting.

Mary Anton reported for Harper Court Arts Council. HCAC has been busy looking at the RFP process and considering changes to make the Council better. They are in full compliance with the AG although changes have been suggested. They learned much from the Donors' Forum. HCAC also will be talking with tenants, particularly those who want to buy, and working on improving management of the Court--and promoting it. It remains their intent to sell Harper Court. They have received very few responses to their request for input into the RFP and future of the court.

Asked by Ms. DesJardins whether HCAC believes it represents and speaks for the community, Anton replied it represents the Court, but would rather not say it represents the community. She also saw no consensus on the future of Harper Court, 53rd Street, and retail. Asked about relationship with banks, Anton said there is a long-standing loan from a local bank, but the assets would be managed by an institution that offered the best real estate financing services, which the local banks don't.

Anton said the court is willing to meet with small groups of residents or representatives from organizations. There will be a city planning consultant for Harper Court. Later she said a deliberate choice was made to stay away from the HPKCC forums.

Some in the audience said the whole process should be started over.

George Rumsey reported for Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, particularly any consensus or arresting ideas from its public discussions and work groups on Harper Court. He distributed a special edition of the Conference Reporter, with summary and key points, reports on the March 28, April 11, and April 25 meetings, results of questionnaire taken at the April 25 meeting, excerpts from the 2000 Vision for Hyde Park Retail District, and from the Theater RFP. He also distributed"board member contributions" by Gary Ossewaarde and by M.L. Rantala and George Davis. (See HPKCC and Harper Court and Harper Court Ideas and RFP Principles for most of these.)

Rumsey said the discussions organized chiefly by the Conference formed a complementary, not parallel process that gave the community ways to speak to the Arts Council. The meeting showed that the community certainly does care. He described the circumstances and tenure of the three meetings.

The three questions April 25--What should Harper Court do for the neighborhood?, what should an improved Harper Court look like?, and how can the process ensure that both the neighborhood and the mission of the Arts Council will be benefited?--showed a diversity of opinions and great ideas, but also several constants. This was especially evident in the evaluations.

Rumsey said the HPKCC board wanted to see the RFP draft before deciding what it wants to see in the court, but voted 12-1 that the original mission to help small business must in some degree be continued.

TIF Chair Howard Males asked how the TIF could help. Rumsey replied, input, and added that he would like further discussion of ways to work together. Males noted that Chuck Thurow, chair of TIF Planning and Development, was taking RFP suggestions, as well as the Court at info@harpercourt.com. A Harper Court delegation and a HPKCC committee are to meet.

Cal Audrain said an obstacle is getting beyond an old, hunker-down attitude of Harper Court.

Ms. Rauchenberger of HCAC board said Harper Court has been visiting the tenants.

Tom Wake, veterinarian tenant of HC, thanked Mary Anton for coming.

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Herald's report on May 8 meeting, May 10. By Tedd Carrison

Harper Court Arts Council to Reorganize, Arts Council says attorney general prompted board changes

The Harper Court Arts Council announced Monday that it has spent the last two months conforming to "recommendations" by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office. Arts Council board member Mary Anton said during Monday's 53rd Street Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Advisory Council meeting that implementing these changes diverted its attention from drafting a Request for Proposals (RFP) this month, though a draft should be ready when the TIF meets again in July.

The May 8 meeting marked the second time the arts council appeared before the community since December when the Herald learned of its desire to sell the Harper Court Shopping Center at Harper Avenue and 52nd Place and apply the proceeds toward arts grants. The arts council's first appearance came at the March TIF meeting.

"We basically have been spending the past two months looking at the RFP process, working with the city planning department and working with the attorney general's office," said Anton. She said the attorney general deemed the arts council in "full compliance" of t he state non-profit law but outlined some "changes we can make to improve our organization." She did not address what, specifically, these changes are.

In past weeks, Assistant Attorney General Therese Harris has reportedly told the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference that the arts council must expand or reconfigure its board of directors to be more representative of the community. Harris has refused to comment definitely to the Herald regarding the arts council board until the future of Harper Court is more certain. She has reported nothing illegal about its recent dealings.

The pending Harper Court RFP will include not only the 40-year-old shopping center but the adjoining city-owned parking at 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue. The arts council first tried to sell the complex to downtown based JDI Realty, LLC earlier this year, but the sale eventually fell through, leaving the non-profit to seek a developer elsewhere. Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) urged the RFP process shortly after the JDI talks ended, amid complaints that community input had been sidestepped during past negotiations.

At Monday's meeting HPKCC President George Rumsey presented some RFP principles his organization has gathered over the past two months. These principles are summed up in a letter to the editor this week. (See page 4.) Despite accusations by some that the conference was instituting a "parallel process
to draft a Harper Court RFP, Rumsey said its work is actually a "compl[e]mentary process" and input and attendance from arts council board members was solicited but refused in two of three public meetings it hosted.

"We decided, I think, that the process would go better if we didn't attend the meetings," said Anton. She said that the arts council would meet with small groups of residents to discuss the future of Harper Court and said there are two e-mail addresses setup to reach the non-profit, including artscoucil-infor@harpercourt.com and info@harpercourt.com.

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May 24 2006 Herald recalls May 8 meeting, calls for a new arts council

[See more detailed report immediately above. Note: the Herald's statement here that the Arts Council refused on May 8 to agree to any meeting with HPKCC officers does not comport with this editor's take of what was said during or immediately following that meeting. A meeting between representatives from the two organizations may take place.]

Why is the Harper Court Arts Council not answering questions about the future of Harper Court? It is obvious from their latest appearance at the May 8 Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Advisory Council meeting that the arts council is choosing not to be forthcoming with answers and at best remains vague on details.

There is still no explanation of why the arts council chose to see the Harper Court Shopping Center to a for-profit developer. There is till no explanation of why the arts council, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit assumed control of the shopping center from the Harper Court Foundation, a not-for-profit without tax-exempt status, in December. No mention was made as to whether the foundation still exists and still receives rent checks from the shopping center's 30 tenants. Or did that transfer tot he arts council too? There is still no answer as to where the money which might be generated by the selling of the shopping center will go. And there is still no explanation as to why the Harper Court Arts Council Board of Directors feels Hyde Park no longer needs the services it provides through low rent to small merchants we want in our community.

The feeling from the audience was inquisitive but certainly not disputatious. Yet the arts council's representative remained guarded and defensive from the moment the meeting began, even refusing to meet with officers of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference to discuss how the community can be more involved in the fate of the Harper Court Shopping Center.

And what about the state of the arts council's Request for Proposals to redevelop Harper Court? The representative claimed the arts council has been meeting with the Illinois Attorney General's office about "reorganizing" and hasn't devoted the time to discussing Harper Court's future. In a follow-up conversation with the Herald, an official with the attorney general said the two parties had not met in nearly a month.

The arts council also claims it has not received feedback from the community via its two e-mails: artscouncilinfo@harpercourt.com and info@harpercourt.com, even blaming the Herald for misrepresenting those e-mail addresses. Its representative then backpedaled by saying one of its e-mail addresses is a business address, is limited an fills up very quickly.

The Herald has been trying to talk to the Harper Court Foundation and arts council since learning of the sale in December. They have refused to return endless requests for interviews.

The May 8 meeting was the arts council's second public appearance since December. The 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization first spoke publicly at a TIF meeting in March. In between the two meetings were two public forums on Harper court hosted by the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference. Absent was any representation from the foundation or the arts council.

The representative justified this absence saying the "public process" might go better "if we didn't attend." But there is too much at stake and too many outstanding questions to remain absent. How about answering one simple question? Does the Harper Court Foundation still exist?

For the development of Harper Court to proceed in a thoughtful and transparent manner, the Herald suggests the Harper Court Arts Council completely dissolve its current board and re-elect members of the community, including representatives from other organizations.

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There continue to be explorations on the legal front as neighbors and leaders look to what might be a better process and players and optimum outcomes. The Illinois Attorney General's office has already intervened to say it will not allow a sale to go forward unless the Arts Council expands its board and re-writes its bylaws in a way that comports with its purposes and new role handling funds from liquidation of assets.

There is large support for a change in who handles the whole process. And an independent gathering of views, ideas and guidelines is being used to prepare a report to community and the RFP process, a report that was made to the May 8 TIF Advisory Council public meeting after the Arts Council's report. See reports on forums in the HPKCC and Harper Court page. Some of the views being consolidated are in Harper Court Ideas and Principles. Some of these are:

Why including the city lot in the RFP changes the ball game

Parking impact questions

Alderman Preckwinkle announced (at a special HPKCC invite but not closed meeting, including representation from the Harper Court Arts Council,) at the end of March that she asked the city to bundle in the City Lot at Lake Park with the Harper Court RFP and that this has been done. It is clearly her project now.

Although the only reason given by the Alderman (and that was back in March) was because the City can cast a much wider net for developers, the city lot certainly brings into the mix a much larger and CLEARED space, giving much more flexibility to start development with or without at least initially doing much with current Harper Court--something can go forward in addition to the Theater and give promise of a much enhanced gateway to the central business district. In addition, the development can include that garage (the first and main purpose for the TIF) and can help back its bonds. It also dilutes the role of Harper Court Arts Council (and offers the possibility of getting the whole process out of their hands) although nominally the "final decision" on proposals is theirs.

No matter what people believe about how much it was the public's business and the public's business to know about the planning and negotiations of Harper Court Foundation over the past couple of years and recent months, now that the City Parking Lot 44 has been thrown into the RFP redevelopment process every step is now public business and subject to laws and ordinances on public meetings and business. And it puts increasing spotlight on the larger PUD where Harper Court, the city lot, and McDonald's are sited.

It also reveals that the community continues to be in the dark--to what extent intentionally and to what extent just from a fast-evolving process, it still makes it hard to react and suggest when we don't know the full ground. Will other shoes drop such as bundling with the Theater* (Hank Webber said "no" we want the independence and to get this - something going now ) or the Hyde Park Bank owned Hollywood Video, the Columbian, laundromat....

* Hank Webber of the U of C has repeatedly said the University is not interested in bundling its ex-Theater complex, now reviewing proposals, with Harper Court, but acknowledged to the Trustees and associated guests that the possibility has been submitted to them and they are considering whether they are interested. Clearly, there are pluses and minuses for the University and for the Harper complex. There are other options for coordination short of combining RFPs.

Also affected is the work of the TIF Parking Committee. It was out of the loop, whether kept out or because things are changing so fast and a letter of information expected to be in the March 29 Herald did not appear. Now the Committee, convened to develop short to medium timeframe solutions and to recommend a Parking Study was potentially thrown up in arms--when the City is about to tear out the meters in the city lot and replace them with Pay and Display machines. Others say the matter is a wash since a diminution of public parking spaces will not be allowed--and an increase may be possible (but times and conditions of use could be changed, not least by a change in the monthly rental policy).

Hyde Parkers are highly alarmed nearly always when something could even remotely remove any number of parking spaces. At meetings over Harper Court, when announcement was made that the city lot was being bundled in to the request for proposals, an inevitable letter appeared in the Herald bemoaning loss of parking and telling the powers to be "get real." This writer personally inquired of Alderman Preckwinkle concerning maintaining at least the number of public spaces now in the city lot (a position assumed also by all members of the TIF Parking Committee). The Alderman completely agreed. Indeed, one supposes both the reason the Ald. proposed bundling --need for at least some more spaces-- as well as needs of whatever stays or goes into Harper Court dictates a garage.

However, there remains a problem--if the lot goes, there must be replacement parking ready at once. We can't have two years without the current spaces.

(Nobody sayz department: since the city lot is being thrown in to get ideas for redevelopment, open access and green space at the least may by logic require bringing in the bank-owned Hollywood Video.)

Herald coverage of the expansion of the development, April 5. 2006. By Tedd Carrison

[Note: the Herald made some mistakes re: the late March HPKCC meeting. It was not a public meeting but a broadened planning meeting, whose character changed when the Alderman and the lead spokesperson for the Harper Court Arts Council appeared. Omitted is the considerable discussion about whether a "shadow" or "parallel" process for public input is needed. The entire group, only a few of whom are active in HPKCC, except for the Alderman and the Harper Court person felt such an input-gathering process is necessary. Also not made clear is that the Alderman specifically said she asked the city to bundle the parking lot to the Harper Court RFP. This site understands Harper Court initially rejected the idea. It is evident whose voice rules the process. We also understand that the idea of combining was well known to some persons before the March 13 TIF meeting. Note also that the Harper Court letter published in the same issue (and somehow not in the previous issue contemporaneous with the HPKCC planning meeting) does not mention the combined offering.]

The Chicago Department of Planning has offered to link a city-owned parking lot that adjoins the Harper court Shopping Center to a Request for Proposals (RFP) to purchase and develop the complex, Ald. Toni Preckwinkle(4th) told residents at a public [sic] meeting March 28.

Preckwinkle said she suggested the joint public/private RFP in a meeting with the planning department March 22 to attract developers to the shopping center at Harper Avenue and 52nd Place. This comes six weeks after negotiations between the Harper Court Arts Council, which owns the center, and downtown-based JDI Realty fell through. she said the RFP process would also allow for community input, which was conspicuously absent during the JDI talks.

The city lot, which occupies 55,000 sq. ft. along Lake Park Avenue, north of 53rd street, is zoned for a commercial planned development similar to Harper Court, according to department of planning spokeswoman Connie Buscemi. Its addition to the Harper Court RFP surprised many of the roughly 25 residents who attended the March 28 meeting hosted by the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference.

Gary Ossewaarde sits on the HPKCC Board as well as the 53d Street Tax Increment Financing District parking committee, which advises the alderman on various parking issues, including the Lake Park/53rd lot. He said the parking committee did not discuss the lot's inclusion in the Harper Court RFP at its most recent meeting March 13. "It was not something that was said but there was some speculation involved," said Ossewaarde.

Jo Reizner, assistant vice president for the U. of C. real estate operations office and chair of the TIF parking committee, said, "We have not specifically spoken about the city lot but it is still a goal of the TIF to have a new garage built in that general vicinity." She said the lot's location at two major thoroughfares makes the site more suitable for retail development than strictly parking purposes. "I think there is a higher and better use for that land than a surface parking lot," said Reizner.

After the March 28 meeting, Preckwinkle said, "The idea was to include the parking lot [in the Harper Court RFP] with the idea that a developer would want parking or perhaps a new development that would include parking on the site." She would not offer her own preferences for the property.

On Monday, the Chicago Department of Transportation posted signs for three new "pay and display" boxes to be installed in the Lake Park lot by the department of revenue. The new machines will replace the meters that mark each of the more than 140 spaces throughout the lot. Parking committee member Irene Sherr said the new boxes, which take cash and credit cards, will make parking simpler and are temporary enough to be worthwhile, despite the uncertainty of what will become of the site. She said more permanent committee suggestions like increased lighting and landscaping are no longer practical. "If we thought the lot life was going to be longer, there are a lot more improvements we would like to see," said Sherr."Since its life is probably limited for one reason or another we are really thinking short term." Sherr praised the city for funding the new boxes.

Same consultants work Harper Court, Harper Theater

Ald. Toni Preckwinkle has been meeting with the Chicago Consultants Studio regarding a Request for Proposals for the Harper Court Shopping Center. CCS is the smart private urban planning group that is working with the University of Chicago to take proposals for the shuttered Harper Theater adjacent to Harper Court.

Tim Brangle of CCS said he did not know how the Harper court and Harper Theater RFPs would relate, but "there is obviously and interest in having the right developer for the entire area." Kim Goluska, CCS president and CEO, said Preckwinkle asked him to draw up criteria for th Harper Court RFP because she was pleased with the job he did on the Harper Theater RFP. He said it is unlikely that the theater and the sopping center will be developed together because the theater is a "stand alone" property but the tow are not completely separate. "What happens on the university property will be a positive influence to push along development at Harper Court and the parking lot," said Goluska.

He said the addition of the parking lot t the RFP should also simplify development of the site, because it allows for major changes like an uninterrupted Harper Avenue through 52nd Street.

 


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Bare realities analysis by Gary Ossewaarde:

The Herald's case after the March 13 Harper presentation should be considered and perhaps broadened :

"There are two separate issues: what to do about the "value" of the Harper Court land and the condition of the present structures, and what to do with the "assets" of Harper Court, either the land and present center or the cash, which might be generated by selling the land?

What we do with the "assets" is the primary question. What Harper Court failed to do last week was to make the case for its position on the use of the assets. Where is the research that says we no longer either want the merchants who are there or they can survive on their own. To say that Harper Court has outlived its usefulness without documentation is not fair to the community or the history of Harper Court."

A further question is, who should and can capably manage such cashed out assets. The choices before us now are Harper Court Art Council--as is or broadened, likely a bit, or a new entity that could well be politically controlled, given what is happening with the city-directed RFP process for redevelopment, closed except for "welcoming comments." Are there other options?

Harper Court Foundation's transfer of the shopping center to Harper Court Arts Council and self-choice of priorities* of what it does nor doesn't want to operate and spend realized funds on is a done deal and legal and the two entities are in good standing, although changes in bylaws may be required and in board composition may be urged by the state, extrapolating from the Assistant Attorney General for the Charitable Trusts Bureau, Illinois Attorney General's Office. Bylaws must be revised to fit new missions. However, the law governing general non-profits does not appear to preclude such a transfer despite "similar purpose" language governing charitable non-profits (and even that's vague), and HCF charter language re both purposes and dissolution can be cited to consider the purposes close enough. The Attorney General's office does not believe it has cause to challenge. An outside lawsuit would likely fail on lack of standing, merits, and "nuisance." Such suits generally only succeed in driving down the value of the asset and scaring away buyers and developers.

The Arts Council in its handout March 13 said that during a time of change, "to support our local arts organizations is an investment in the community that will complement those changes...as appropriate to these times as the original decision to create Harper Court was forty years ago." They call it a "win-win."

Later: Ald. Preckwinkle revealed to a small meeting of HCt-issue interested in late March (was to have been in an Arts Council letter in March 29 Herald) that the City Lot property is being rolled into the RFP--should not be a surprise but seems to be. Certainly, any developer must be assured that parking is in play. Also, HCAC and the Alderman have begun meeting with the Dept. of Planning to start the process. The city is involved as a favor to the alderman--gives the stamp and mailing list that will interest many more developers. Note that an RFP is a contract, but HCAC will be the sole decider and can reject any and all bids. When a bid is accepted, the developer will have to deal with the city process re any changes in the Planned Unit Development--which includes the Court, City Lot, and McDonald's site.

At the aforementioned small meeting, a rep. of the Arts Council as well as Ald. Preckwinkle indicated HCAC needs to hear concrete ideas, for example of the kind of retail Hyde Parkers want, so they can craft the RFP in wanted directions. They were worried about a "parallel process to theirs" (i.e. HPKCC forum and workshop) and felt any ideas submitted to HCAC or the May TIF would be too late to digest. They seemed to alternate between call for haste and saying the process would only begin when a draft RFP is ready for public comment.

The Foundation is proceeding to draft principles and a request for proposals for sale and some degree of redevelopment of Harper Court, to be ready for the May 8 TIF meeting although there is now waffling on this--those with "ideas" are to send them to artscouncilinfo@harpercourt.com. (Their box may be busy, give them also written at 5211 S. Harper, - this page advises a copy to Alderman Preckwinkle and to Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, hpkcc@aol.com or 1513 E. 53rd St., all 60615. HCt only promises the RFP will be available for review and comment-and the council will be a 'regular guest' at TIF meetings. HPKCC says such appearances and proposed RFP process is insufficient. HPKCC and others are setting up what is billed as a more inclusive and carefully-constructive alternative process to develop a set of principles and guidelines for RFP in the same timeframe. The Conference wants to ensure RFP is neither an insider done deal nor the end of the process. The Foundation and Council appear to have no vision or concern for the future of the property and are to be in a "dump it" mode. What will be the role of the city department of Planning and Development, which will manage the RFP process--to ensure rules are followed, or will it interject city redevelopment interests and objectives? In any case, the RFP seems to presume and tilt toward extensive redevelopment of the property no matter who buys it.

Up for grabs is the management and distribution of assets. So far the Arts Council has given no indication it is willing to expand its board or turn over management of funds from a sale to a professional fund-managing foundation with broad local advising board, HCt says. It says proceeds "will be reinvested to create an endowment fund. The income will be used to support tax-exempt cultural organizations that contribute to the quality of life in the community." The final bylaws of the Arts Council, determined by the Council by itself or under pressure to change, and, according to HCt the IRS code and Illinois Attorney General's Office, will govern distribution.

About possible tenant/local bid:

Tom Wake, speaking also for Nancy Stanek, told the late March meeting mentioned above that they are interested in buying and redeveloping Harper Court but this would only be with the present buildings--not to tear down and redevelop or hold-and-sell. Their making a bid depends in large part on a full engineering, viability and marketing study and on what's in the RFP. And do not think that either of their businesses' future depends on whether Harper Court is "saved."

From Herald coverage of contemplated bid April 12. By Tedd Carrison and Anthony Bishop

Three tenants seek an engineering study to see if the center's sound enough to restore, in which case they may bid on it. Nancy Stanek (Toys Et Cetera) and veterinarian Tom Wake are well known. We do not know the third--maybe Ms. Bradford of C'est Si Bon! or Paul Andressen of Calypso and Dixie Kitchen? Stanek told the Herald, "My desire to purchase Harper Court has less to do with me being a tenant and more to do with me being a resident." She emphasized the community's need for a shopping center that is "wholly and solely devoted to small business." Wake said he would like to restore the economic vibrancy of Harper Court while keeping its current setup and purpose intact. "We are not interested in buying Harper Court to sell it. We believe we can bring the property back up to snuff," he said.

Stanek added that the addition of the parking lot will not deter their interest. "The parking lot is going to have an impact and while our interest is primarily in retaining a place that would harbor and nurture small independent business, we are well aware that it is fully dependent on the parking lot," she said.

Stanek met with Alderman Preckwinkle to set forth their idea and project, and said the Alderman was supportive.

See Gabriel Piemonte's Principles for Harper Court development in our page of community

Piemonte is former associate editor of the Herald and active in development and preservation issues. HPKCC is looking at some of these principles, but not necessarily all, and more as it develops its own principles for Harper Court and cannot necessarily endorse statements in this or any other letter or essay it reproduces.

I applaud the HPKCC for their efforts at increasing civic participation in the planning process for Harper Court. It is sad--but not surprising--that the foundation established to ensure perpetuation of the community's interest at Harper Court has been doing the opposite. For years, they have behaved as if they had their own agenda and were unconcerned with the community's wishes. Remember the chess benches? Great work, Herald, of holding the Harper Court Foundation accountable and keeping the neighborhood informed.

After talking to many fellow Hyde Parkers, some of whom favor redevelopment and some of whom prefer preservation, I believe the following principles should be incorporated into any future planning or Harper Court, regardless of whether it is redeveloped or not.

  1. Density limit--no higher than four stories;
  2. Public space must be included, for instance a permanent location for an open air market like a farmer's market;
  3. Harper Court must be developed independently, with no connection to city or university-owned land; and
  4. Future plans must conform to all agreements in the original planned development.

I believe the abuse of public trust demonstrated by the Harper Court Foundation is criminal.

Furthermore, this plan is eerily reminiscent of the 47th Street Co-op project, which has left us with a crippled community institution and a vast, vacant retail space, with the only benefits being substantial profits for a faceless developer.

Let's hold Ald. Toni Preckwinkle's feet to the fire and demand a transparent community process!

Harper Court's April 5 release about what it does and inviting RFP input

The Harper Court Arts Council has established an Internet address: artcouncilinfo@harpercourt.com whereby Hyde Park and Kenwood neighborhood residents and community organizations can submit their ideas about the redevelopment of the Harper Court Shopping Center.

The arts council board of directors continues to work with the 4th Ward Ald. Toni Preckwinkle, who is assisting in the preparation of a Request for Proposals (RFP) by the city of Chicago Department of Planning.

The RFP will be available to real estate developers who are interested in enhancing the retail life of Harper Court. The draft of the RFP will be available for public comment prior to its release. The tax increment financing (TIF) meetings regularly held by Ald. Preckwinkle will continue to provide a public forum to keep the community informed.

The Harper Court Arts Council, which will make the final decision about the sale of Harper Court, is committed to balancing the needs of managing a commercial real estate property with its original mission to support and promote artistic efforts and cultural organizations in the Hyde Park-Kenwood community.

Proceeds from the sale of Harper Court will be invested with a highly regarded investment banker, and will be used to support non-profit cultural organizations that contribute to the quality of life in the community.

The Harper Court Arts Council was created in 1990 "to stimulate, promote, encourage and enhance public appreciation of the various art forms primarily in the Chicago metropolitan area and, in particular, the community known as Hyde Park-Kenwood, including but not limited to fine art, theatre, photography and music, and to foster and develop the arts by sponsoring public art exhibits and theatrical performances of unknown, but promising, artists."

Contact Leslie Cole-Morgan at 363-8282.

 

 



March 13 mtg.

The matter was placed on the TIF Advisory Council March 13 2006 agenda. For well over an hour Harper Court Arts Council spokespersons Kenneth Grant and Mary Anton stated their position and reasons and timeline of their actions, apologized for not consulting a broader part of the community. They said the original purpose of helping businesses squeezed by urban renewal and of fostering small, especially artisan businesses was long over and it was time to turn the center over to a for profit manager or developer--it would be far too expensive for the foundation to fix up and had sometimes had trouble managing the Center, so it turned the center over to its charitable arm to sell and use the proceeds to foster arts organizations and projects in the community. This was a great opportunity to redo a big retail area in the community, with retail being in trouble, HCAC said. There will be a request for proposal process, placed by Ald. Preckwinkle in the hands of the Chicago Department of Planning and Development. People were invited to submit ideas to artscouncilinfo@harpercourt.com, and the Arts Council was instructed to come to the May 8 TIF meeting with a Statement of Principles.

Suggestions from the audience--the largest to attend a TIF meeting), including representatives of some of the major community organizations that the HC Arts Council meet with representatives from the major community civic and arts organizations to develop principles and guidelines and other suggestions for a more open, community-involving process were set aside by the Council, the Alderman, and the TIF advisory council chairman.

Major questions about the appropriateness of these boards and organizations to make these decisions and carry out these divergent purposes, given reservations by the Attorney General's office, and what procedures will be put in place to manage the monies from the sale went largely unanswered ("We are working with the Attorney General..") Some alternative suggestions were made, including announcement of plans by some Harper Court tenant businesses to submit a bid and buy the center to creatively make it better. Tenant also stated their concerns, experiences, and that they are now in limbo not knowing what will happen. Harper Court said that both organizations still exist and are active.

HPKCC President George Rumsey notes that only the RFP question of its seven was answered, in fact the HCAC expressed no interest in even expanding its board. Rumsey said at the meeting that the community has lost confidence in the Arts Council to manage the proceedings. Top

From the official minutes of the meeting

Harper Court: Ken Grant introduced other Board members in attendance and read a statement apologizing for its past non-transparent process, pledging a public process via t he TIF Council meetings, and asking for comments and suggestions from the community for the RFP process for Harper Court.

TIF Council members had no questions, so th e Chair gave the community an opportunity to ask questions until 8:30 p.m.

The community asked numerous questions about the difference between the Harper Court Foundation Board and the Harper Court Arts Council Board, reasons for wanting to sell the Harper Court property, and its willingness for community representation/input in the planning process.

Mr. Grant noted that the Harper Court Arts [Council] is working with the Attorney General's office to ensure that all legalities are in place for the Arts [Council] and with the City's Department of Planning to prepare a Request for Proposal. The goal is to use a process similar to that used by Hank Webber for t he Theater building wherein community preferences were solicited and incorporated into the RFP with frequent progress reports via representatives at the TIF Council meetings. Mr. Grant asked those present to email suggestions/comments to the Harper Court Foundation.

Alderman Preckwinkle suggested that the Foundation [Arts Council] develop a draft of guiding principles for the RFP to be presented at the May TIF meeting for public comments and suggestions.

A question and answer sheet was distributed by the Harper Court Arts Council and a statement by Neighbors to Save Harper Court:

Harper Court's distributed paper: Questions and Answers About the Status and Future of Harper Court, March 2006

Q: When and why was Harper Court Foundation started?
A: The Harper Court Foundation was incorporated in 1963 "to study the means to prevent and alleviate the effect of urban renewal projects in eliminating from a community the low rental, diversified properties which are necessary for the continuation in the community of artisans, craftsmen and educational, recreational and other services offered on a commercial basis but of special cultural or community significances; to initiate and to carry on any project designed to further or effectuate said purpose, and in general, to engage in any activity tending to further said purpose, including the development of a demonstration project in the Hyde Park-Kenwood urban redevelopment area in Chicago, Illinois...net earnings of the corporation...if any, shall all be used for the study, development or carrying out of any means and projects for preventing the cultural and community sterilization associated with urban renewal developments and for the making of donations to existing tax-exempt cultural organizations in urban renewal areas....Upon dissolution the assets of the corporation shall be distributed to some tax-exempt organization whose purposes are, as near as may be, the same as those of the corporation; and failing such similar organization, the assets shall be distributed to tax-exempt cultural organizations in urban renewal areas..."

The Harper Court Shopping Center was a "demonstration program" which grew out of the Harper Court Foundation charter. The Shopping Center was build on public urban renewal land using the proceeds of bonds that were purchased by the members of the Hyde Park Community. The bonds were paid off in the early 1990s.

Q: Why was the Harper Court Arts Council created in 1990?
A:
The Harper Court Arts Council was created in 1990 after some members of the University community contributed their matures bonds back to Harper Court to be used for charitable purposes. The 1990 charter of the Council is: "To stimulate, promote, encourage and enhance public appreciation of various art forms primarily in the Chicago metropolitan areas and, in particular, the community known as Hyde Park, including but not limited to fine art, theatre, photography and music, and to foster and develop the arts by sponsoring public arts exhibits and theatrical performances of unknown, but promising, artists..."

Q: Has the Foundation changed the focus of its original mission?"
A:
No. The Foundation has always had the dual mission of supporting the community's small retail businesses and tax-exempt cultural organizations. The Foundation has concentrated on the management of the Harper Court Shopping Center, while the Arts Council has concentrated on using limited available resources to support cultural activities.

Q: What are the plans for the future of Harper Court?
A:
The Harper Court Foundation donated the Harper Court Shopping Center to the Harper Court Arts Council. The Arts Council plans to sell the shopping center through a public RFP process similar to the one being used for the Hyde Park Theatre. The Council feels the "win-win" strategy for the community is to sell Harper Court to a reputable real estate developer who has the resources to reinvest in the business community.

Q: What will happen to the proceeds from the sale of Harper Court?
A:
Proceeds from the sale of the Harper Court Shopping Center will be reinvested to create an endowment fund. The income will be used to support tax-exempt cultural organizations that contribute to the quality of life in our community. The Federal Internal Revenue Code and State of Illinois Attorney General's Office govern the organization and programs of the Council.

Q: Will residents and business owners be able to review the Request for Proposals?
A:
Yes. The draft will be available for public comment prior to being released for distribution to interested real estate developers.

Q: How can the community stay informed about the process?
A:
The Harper Court Arts Council will use the TIF meetings to report to the community and provide a public forum for continuing discussion.

Q: How does Harper Court Arts Council view the changes in the community?
A:
As our community goes through another period of residential and commercial change, the board of t he Harper Court Arts Council believes that to support our local arts organizations is an investment in the community that will complement those changes. We hope the community residents will see that the actions taken now are as appropriate to these times as the original decision to create Harper Court was forty years ago.

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Neighbors United to Save Harper Court statement and questions distributed at the March 13 TIF meeting.

saveharpercourt@yahoogroups.com

Neighbors United to Save Harper Court represents many parts of the Hyde Park in the community. It is in the best interests of the community to keep the current Harper Court Tenants in Hyde Park, most would like to see Harper Court continue with its mission an make necessary repairs for improvement.

We would like a moratorium on the sale and/or redevelopment and current businesses offered two-three year leases while the community comes together to decide what it wants. There are already two vacantly retail spots on 53rd, and therefore this is not the best time to redevelop Harper Court. Redevelopment should begin in already vacant retail spaces on 53rd St.

People would like a continued public ownership of Harper Court and are concerned with the lack of transparency and the indifference to the desires of the community with the current board. we want focus on getting community folks on the Harper Court Board.

We would like to see a wider representation of the community on the board. There ought to be a representative of the alderman, and maybe of the HPKCC..., and a member of the HPNC board. The wider the representation on the HC board, the less likely decisions will be made without acknowledging the community.

Our Questions

  1. Why did the Foundation decide to sell? Why now? What is t he urgency behind the sale?
  2. What maintenance and repairs are needed in Harper Court and what estimates have you gotten on the costs? As we would like to keep current tenants like the Animal Clinic.
  3. Who made the decision to sell? Can we get a copy of minutes of the board meeting of the Foundation and the Council?
  4. Will you accept a community effort to help them find the financial resources to preserve Harper Court and to continue with the original mission of providing the much-needed affordable retail spaces in Hyde Park.? Top


Hyde Park Herald coverage of the March 13 2006 meeting

Harper Court Arts Council speaks publicly. March 15, 2006. By Tedd Carrison

At a public meeting March 13, the Harper Court Arts Council reaffirmed their intention to dispose of the Harper Court Shopping Center, while being peppered with questions by at least 50 residents, merchants and tenants.

The non-profit opened the floor to ideas as it announced a Request for Proposals (RFP) process to develop the 40-year-old center.

Nancy Stanek, owner of Toys Et Cetera in the court, said, "When you get that RFP together, I am going to have my bid in there." She said she would also solicit input for the proposal from other tenants.

Kenneth Grant, vice president of the Harper Court Foundation and a board member of the Harper Court Arts Council, said, "We have outgrown the purpose and intent of Harper Court."

The two non-profits work out of the same office at the base of the shopping center. The foundation transferred ownership of the complex tot he arts council last December.

Members of the audience, armed with questions, packed a multi-purpose room in the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club as Grant and fellow board member Mary Anton outlined their intentions for the center.

The March 13 Tax Increment Financing Advisory Council meeting marked the first public appearance of the Harper Court board since the Herald learned the center was under contract to be sold to a downtown developer last December. JDI Realty LLC has since pulled out of the deal but the arts council said it still wants to sell.

Some residents complained that the non-profit's plan to liquidate the property and funnel the proceeds into arts-related programming throughout the neighborhood could threaten small businesses that now occupy the center. Others were concerned that Harper Court's registered charitable purpose when it incorporated in 1963--to provide low-rent space for artisans and small businesses displaced during Urban Renewal--would be compromised.

In contrast to the foundation, the arts council was incorporated as a non-profit with 501c(3) tax exemption status in 1990 to "stimulate, promote, encourage and enhance public appreciation of various art forms... in Hyde Park-Kenwood..." The disparity in purposes has raised questions about whether the transfer of the shopping center, which was recently appraised at $6.2 million, is legitimate. According to legal experts consulted by the Herald, non-profit law generally requires that liquidated charitable assets be applied toward another non-profit with a similar mission. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office examined the circumstances of the sale in January. It has not reported finding anything inherently illegal in the transfer.

But judgment is still pending in the court of public opinion. Longtime Hyde Parker Charlotte Desjardins was one of the many community investors who bought debenture bonds to fund the construction of Harper Court in the 1960s. "[Harper Court] was never presented to us as what is being proposed tonight," said Desjardins. "The way that it was presented to us was to be a community for artists who were being displaced from 57th Street."

Grant said the conditions that threatened artists during Urban Renewal are no longer application to the neighborhood. The court, he said, has "served its purpose" and the arts council could "get more bang for its buck" by selling. Grant said the arts council reached this decision after speaking to "numerous" consultants, both locally and nationally based, who agreed that the currently reduced rents would have to face market value or the center could not sustain itself. "Hyde Park is not in Urban Renewal anymore," he said.

Additionally, Anton said the nonprofit sought estimates to rehab the complex and the resulting numbers indicated this was not economically feasible.

Beyond the change of purpose, some residents were upset that, aside from a letter to the Herald last month, it took the arts council nearly 15 weeks and the loss of their potential buyer to speak publicly about transferring the charitable assets and their desire to sell the complex.

"I'm really shocked that we have come to this point because Harper Court was a community process," said Desjardins. "It belonged to the community just like the Brooklyn Bridge belonged to the people of Brooklyn. How can anybody sell Brooklyn Bridge?"

To open the meeting, Grant apologized on behalf of the arts council for not discussing its plans with the community sooner. He said the council will now be a regular guest at future TIF meetings and all the RFPs it receives will be presented to the public for comment.

Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference President George Rumsey questioned whether the current board, which admitted to sub-par property management multiple times during the meeting, was the ideal group to handle the sale. "A group that has not been able to manage Harper Court doesn't exactly instill confidence that they are going to be the best group to sell Harper Court," he said. Rumsey requested that local community groups have a say in what becomes of the complex.

Grant responded that the RFP process was implemented to garner this community input and explained that any sale of the center would only proceed under the supervision of the attorney general's office.

Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th), who first urged the arts council to solicit RFPs, directed the non-profit to return May 8 with a rough draft of the RFP including a statement of principles.

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Herald reports on HPKCC April 11 forum, HPKCC looks to distilling set of ideas and principles at April 25 Workgroups meeting (7 pm Neighborhood Club)

65 to 70 neighbors attended the April 11 general forum. Information was shared and queried from former director Marc Johnson and Alderman Preckwinkle, then the floor was opened to questions, concerns and ideas. As shown before, there was much sentiment for continuing subsidy or providing for current tenants, but not much consensus on whether or how to redevelop. See full report in the HPKCC on Harper Court page. See ideas and their connection to the writers' community values and principles in the Harper Papers-ideas and principles page.

Excerpted from the April 19 2006 Herald. By Tedd Carrison. Harper Court Forum 4/25: Public Input sought before May 8 RFP presentation

The Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference will host its third (sic) forum regarding the Harper Court Shopping Center on April 25 This is the final meeting before the Harper Court Arts Council, which owns the complex, is due to outline principles in May to develop the center.

At a similar HPKCC forum last week, ideas for the site varied from keeping it as is to knocking down the 40-year-old buildings at 42nd Place and Harper Avenue and starting over. A common element among many of the roughly 50 people who crowded into the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club April 11 was the need to maintain low rents for the current tenants, no matter how the area is developed.

Some of the tenants present at the meeting said that their livelihoods depend on the discounted rents that have defined Harper Court since it was built by a non-profit in 1965. "If we can't get a break on rent, we will be gone and we will probably be gone for good," said Dorri Ellis of Artists 21, a cooperative of artists that have held space in Harper Court since 1981.

Hyde Parker and member of the Neighbors to Save Harper Court Robin Kaufman denounced the Harper Court Arts Council's intention to sell the non-profit shopping center to a for-profit developer earlier this year, saying it was "highjacked."... Kaufman said she fears that a future sale will compromise the incorporated mission of the non-profit Harper Court Foundation, which built the center in 1965. .."To take it away would be criminal."

Despite the nostalgia many residents hold for the court, Hyde Parker and urban planner Aaron Cook said changes must be made it it is to become economically viable. "Harper court needs to grow up," said Cook. He proposed a design charrette to draft plans for the court that would incorporate professional expertise with direct community input. The idea was well-received by many at the forum.

Also touting the benefits of community participation, Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) urged the arts council to institute the current Request for Proposals (RFP) process...the arts council agreed and has been soliciting suggestions for the past month. It is slated to present the status of the RFP at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club...May 8, during the 53rd Street Tax Increment Financing Advisory Council's bimonthly meeting. The arts council can be reached at info@harpercourt.com. The HPKCC can be reached at hpkcc@aol.com.

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Ongoing viewpoints and opinions from after May 8

May 31. Charlotte Des Jardins says the process should be placed in moratorium and others should undertake reconsidering the process to a new realization of the original purpose of Harper Court. The arts council should resign, having shown it considers itself an owner, not a caretaker responsible to the community, and is simply bent on a sale. They never had or presented a plan to benefit the community in a new way, or sought community input therein. The writer says there are ideas how to set up a new community organization to revitalize and market the center. She says, first have a 3-year moratorium and look at what works in other places. This should result in a "revitalization plan driven by a board of directors that is selected by the community and accountable to the community. A revitalized Harper Court, which will attract visitors from all over, can emerge from this renewed, vigorous community undertaking."

June 14 Herald reported a new stand down option promoted by Hans Morsbach, with a new board to run Harper Court according to its original mission

Hyde Parkers want a new Harper Court [board]. Former tenant compiles list of those willing to sit on reformed board. By Tedd Carrison

A former tenant of the beleaguered Harper Court Shopping Center has compiled a list of willing Hyde Parkers who would sit on the board of the Harper Court Arts Council if the non-profit were to shuffle its membership later this year.

Hans Morsbach, former owner of the now-closed Court House restaurant, which opened with the rest of Harper Court in 1965, said the complex has a long history of poor management that the right arts council would end.

Last week, he contacted four other Hyde Parkers that he said, as board members, would help revitalize the moribund shopping center a Harper Avenue an 52nd Place. His recommendations include current Harper Court tenant Nancy Stanek, former Artisans 21 member Steve Carl, former Harper Court Foundation board member Billy Gerstein an Charlotte Des Jardins, who bought a share of the debenture bonds that helped found Harper Court in the 1960s.

"The people who I am suggesting believe there is nothing wrong with Harper Court that better, enlightened management couldn't solve," said Morsbach, He said all five are unanimous in their desire to preserve the center's structure and purpose. "We think that Harper Court is nice the way it is and we don't want to lose the venue for the Farmers' Market," he said.

He said he will propose the names to the current arts council board, although th decision to swap member is ultimately their own. The arts council announced last month that they would make changes to their board following recommendations by th Illinois Attorney General's Office.

Gerstein, who sat on the Harper Court Foundation Board for five years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said the managing body became secretive in their dealings shortly after he left. He called the board members "nice people" but said their secrecy hurt Harper Court's effectiveness as a community institution. He said opening the arts council board, which now manages the center and comprises many foundation board members, would garner more trust and hopefully patronage from the community. "It's like a government that doesn't tell the public stuff," said Gerstein. "It ends up looking worse than it really is. If Hans is trying to open up the discussion, ten I am happy to help with that."

Toys Et Cetera owner Nancy Stanek proposed buying the center with two other tenants earlier this year. At that time, she said she would strive to make the center profitable while keeping the current businesses and purpose intact. The relevance of Harper Court's 43-year-old purpose in modern-day Hyde Park has been denied by the Harper Court Arts Council and argued over by community residents. [A history section follows--see this take in Harper Court Story-Herald-June142006. ]...

Des Jardins said there are many examples of non-profit centers like Harper court that are thriving in other parts of the country and the complex's purpose should not be compromised because business is currently stagnant. "You want to have something unique and that's what Harper Court is all about," she said.

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