Harper Court Area Revevelopment #5: Finalists emerge, fight over demo and emptying of tenants 2008-mid 2009
Presented by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, its Development, Preservation and Zoning Committee, Gary Ossewaarde Chair, and its website hydepark.org. Reach us at hpkcc@aol.com.

Return to Harper Court Redevelopment homepage/latest. Previous (#4 mid 207-mid 2008). Next (#6 mid 2009).
Navigate from there to other material pages and HPKCC positions on the project.

See HPKCC Letters December 2008 to Ann Marie Lipinski of U of C and Ald. Preckwinkle on development and 53rd St. issues (separate page). In January 2009 Ms. Lipinski came to the HPKCC board meeting- see report in this page.
To a closer look at finalists in March 2009

The University of Chicago recommends consulting their site, http://fiftythree.uchicago.edu. There is little, and few specifics on the Project, there. Perhaps there will be more on uchicago.edu/engage.

The following covers happenings and analysis from late 2008 to autumn 2009 and was prepared by Gary Ossewaarde.

Finalists coming into focus- 5, then 4, then 3

From the minutes of the July 13, 2009 TIF meeting:
Harper Court Update: James Wilson, City of Chicago representative, and Essie Banks, also from his office, gave an update on proposals submitted. Susan Campbell and Jim Hennessey from the University of Chicago were also present. (This development site is jointly owned by these two entities.) Of the 5 original finalists, 4 remain. Their proposals will be presented on July 16 and 17 at the University of Chicago. By the end of summer (hopefully by the sept. 13th TIF Council meeting) the best of these proposals will be vetted to the community. If not, a special TIF meeting will be called for in October. (Note: TIF Council members Jo Reizner and andre Brumfield have excluded themselves from any discussion/voting on this site development because of possible conflict of interest.)

Questions from TIF Council members and the audience concerned the privately owned parking spaces (the Alderman has assured that this will be handled properly); whether Hollywood Video site is part of the project (it is); and elements of the RFP (retail, entertainment, residential, parking, hotel, office).

On the whole, those in attendance seemed pleased that progress is being made and that plans will be shared with the community.

Other Issues: A question was raised about whether or not development of the U. of C. owned property at 53rd and Harper (the former movie theater site) will included demolition or rehab. According to Susan Campbell, both possibilities remain.

The University has included for the finalists the option of including the former Hollywood Video building.
According to the U of C. blog on Harper Court by Kadesha Thomas, - http://fiftythird.uchicago.edu/?q=node15 at the July 2009 TIF meeting, James Wilson of the city reported the number of developers has been winnowed to 4 (Since 3). They only want "doable" projects. The presentation meeting may be postponed to October.

Here is the complete:

And then there were four
15 July 2009
Posted by kadeshathomas
?
The City and the University have narrowed the field of candidates to four in their search for the right development team for Harper Court, James Wilson of the Department of Community Development told the 53rd Street TIF Advisory Council, a community group, on Monday.
Five finalists had submitted proposals earlier this month, and four of those met the terms of the request for proposals Wilson said all four had creative ideas and all included plans for hotel, retail, entertainment, office, residential and parking spaces.
City and University representatives will interview the remaining teams this week and next, and examine their plans to make sure the proposals are viable.
Those proposals that make the next cut will be presented to the TIF Council this fall, possibly as early as the regularly scheduled September 14 meeting.
“We don’t want to bring anything to you that’s not doable,” Wilson told the TIF Council Monday. “We need to go through this process and make sure the ones we bring you are truly good ones.”
That could be all four, or it could be just one or two, Wilson said.
Members of the Council and the public said they are anxious for the project to move forward, and glad to see signs of progress. TIF Council Chair Howard Males underscored the urge to move forward, promising to schedule a special meeting in October if the presentation was not ready for the September meeting.

See HPKCC Letters December 2008 to Ann Marie Lipinski of U of C and Ald. Preckwinkle on development and 53rd St. issues (separate page).

The big dispute as we moved from winter into summer 2009 was over University efforts to turn out tenants whose leases go beyond June 2009 (and refuse to move) and demolish the shopping center this summer. Meanwhile, selection of finalists continues.

November 19 the HPKCC Development Committee opposed tearing down and complete emptying of the Harper Court until the RFP is further along. The idea was included in letters to Ald. Preckwinkle and Vice President Lipinski of the U of C. HPKCC also joined with Hyde Park Historical Society in recommending the Theater buildings to Chicago Commission on Landmarks for landmark status. Reaffirmed by December 17 meeting.

Meanwhile (Dec. 2008-Jan. 2009), letters to the Herald continued to call for keeping or finding space for Artisans 21, the Calypso and Dixie Kitchen Restaurants, and Dr. Wake Veterinarian. (The latter two seemed reluctant to move and have time on their leases.)

IN LATE OCTOBER 2008 EVICTIONS WERE BEING ACCELERATED, INCLUDING THOSE WHOSE LEASES EXPIRE NOV. 1- THIS INCLUDES HARPER COURT ART FAIR AND THE COMMUNITY ART FAIR. There were differences of view in how much the UC BY THE UC (NEW OWNER OF WHAT HAD BEEN A PUBLIC-PURPOSE PROPERTY) was doing to help with relocation (with impression being given that few of even the most successful businesses are considered worthy or viable of new locations in the neighborhood). Relocation is difficult because there are not many vacancies. Dixie Kitchen and Calypso indicated they would not be moving by Jan. 31 and have leases to mid 2009 and mid 2012 respectively, although the UC says it will tear down the buildings before completion of the selection of developer in late 2009. The Dec. 17 2008 Herald indicated Calypso and Dixie Kitchen (leases to mid 2012 an 2009 respectively) will not be out January 31. UC VP Rosenberg says the University is seeking agreements so the businesses can stay in Hyde Park. The owners of Calypso and Kitchen seemed optimistic about staying in Hyde Park, though any move would be a lot of work, they say. There are just a handful of spaces at the 1400 to 3800 sf size on 53rd, according to Bob Mason of SECC quoted in the article.

A representative of the University confirmed to a member of the HPKCC board that tenants whose lease is monthly or behind have been notified to leave. There are several tenants whose leases are for a fixed number of years and the University is negotiating with these (included are the Calypso and Dixie Kitchen restaurants and veterinarian Tom Wake.) The University believes that the structures are structurally problematic and deteriorated under what was characterized as a “don't fix-don't pay“ previous management arrangement, so it's best to close and take them down, simplifying the way for developer proposals.

October 1 2008 the Herald confirmed that the Court would indeed be vacated by January 31 (a one month extension--most tenants were upset) and soon thereafter torn down. Schedule for RFP is as was although may include the Theater/Herald bldgs site. Some say minimal consideration and help is being given to current, viable tenants or keeping space filled until plans are ripe, or encouraging startup and marginal businesses.

By Kate Hawley
Harper Court will be empty by Jan.31 and may be demolished shortly thereafter.

Officials from the University of Chicago, which bought the shopping center in May, first told the current tenants that they had until the end of the year to move out, according to Robert Rosenberg, associate vice president for community affairs. That deadline was extended to Jan. 31 a few weeks ago, he said.

Renee Bradford, who has run C'est Si Bon catering at 5225 S. Harper Ave. in Harper Court for nearly 18 years, complained that the deadline doesn't give her enough time to find a new location and get the permits she needs to start over again. Carolina Cossyleon, owner of Maravillas, the Mexican restaurant at 5211 S. Harper Ave., agreed, saying "We need more time." Although she's well on her way to opening a new location at 5586 S. Lake Park Ave., she would like to bolster it with revenue from the Harper Court location, she said.

Both women said they're upset that their viable businesses will be displaced when the university doesn't have details ironed out for Harper Court's development. "It's reprehensible and indicative of arrogance," Bradford said. "You don't even know what you want to do with [the property]."

Three of Harper Courts' buildings, located along Harper Avenue between 52nd and 53rd streets, are slated for demolition to make way for a new mixed-use complex. A fourth building at 5201 S. Harper, where the new restaurant Park 52 is located, will not be razed. The city and the university are planning to seek a developer for Harper Court and the adjoining city-owned parking lot through a competitive bidding process called request for proposals, or RFP. University officials have said they may also include the Harper Theater and Herald building on the northwest corner of 53rd Street and Harper Avenue as part of the package.

Bradford said university officials told her that the planed to demolish the Harper Court buildings to make the property more appealing to prospective developers. "It's true that a clean site will be most attractive to developers, but that's not why we would be demolishing the structure or forcing anyone out," Rosenberg said. The poor condition of the buildings, and their increasing vacancy as business owners seek better long-term prospects, makes demolition the most financially viable option, he said.

Business owners have received a list of resources to help them relocate, he said, but he acknowledged that some of them are paying such low rent that they will have a hard time finding another place to set up shop. "Most of them are on a rent structure where there really aren't alternatives," he said. Most of the tenants either have month-to-month leases or on leases at all, he said. One of the few businesses with a lease that extends past Jan. 31 is the Hyde Park Animal Clinic, 5210 S. Harper Ave.

Owner Dr. Top Wake said he's happy to leave before his lease is up because he believes the university will help him find a new location in Hyde Park. "I'm confident that the university is not going to leave the community without veterinary services even for a month or two," he said. Wake said he can't wait to leave Harper Court, which has been plagued by flooding and other problems. "This was not designed at all thoughtfully, and it was not built well, and it needs to come down -- yesterday," he said. "This is not a place that makes any economic or other kind of sense at all." Top

Robin Kaufman cautions against just kicking tenants out and tearing the Court Down when the businesses may not find spaces and the Court may not be redeveloped for quite a while. Herald, November 12, 2008

An open letter to President Robert Zimmer, University of Chicago, The University of Chicago Real Estate Office.
It's time to reconsider your efforts to empty Harper Court by Jan. 31.

Given the current state of the economy, a new project of the scale you envision is highly improbable in the foreseeable future. After the stock market crash of 1929 it was decades before our neighborhood saw any new construction.

We need retail in Hyde Park now. Please join with the community and merchants to find ways to keep the locally owned businesses we have, to serve us until the economy improves. Dixie Kitchen, Artisans 21, Calypso Cafe, Hyde Park Animal Clinic, C'est Si Bon, Maravillas Restaurant, US Computech and several non-profits are still operating in Harper Court. It is unlikely that all these would reopen, even if they could find new locations and the necessary financing, which is iffy.

You have already emptied the Herald building. The 55rd Street and Cornell lot has been awaiting redevelopment for years, and the shopping center at 51st Street and Lake Park Avenue is being emptied.

We finally have some nightlife with Checkerboard (thank you), and with Chant. Closing Harper Court will have a negative impact on foot traffic and remaining businesses on 53rd Street. Perhaps you are counting on Olympic fever to reinvigorate things. Well, that decision is still a year away, and the Olympics IF it comes to Chicago, is still seven years off.

Is a decimated neighborhood really what you want to show all the people coming to see the "home town" of our next president?

HPKCC said similar in letters in November to the University's VP for Civic Engagement and to Ald. Preckwinkle. Rob Borja in the Herald Dec. 3 said same:

How does Hyde Park (or the University of Chicago, for that matter) benefit from having the Harper Court property standing vacant for years along with the Hyde Park Herald building, Harper Theater and empty stores in the Village Shopping Center? The real estate field will be convalescing for some time.

With the loss of our veterinarian, four restaurants, Artisans 21, etc., will all of this abandoned property improve our lot? Our spirits? Our present? Our future? Harper Court continues to "support local artisans and business people," as reported in the Nov. 26 Herald, for which it was created.

Is the Jan. 31 eviction plan premature? Again, according to the Nov. 26 Herald, "Choosing a developer will take about 24 months from the time the [request for proposals] is issued, with proposals due to the city on May 11."

Helenmary Sheridan says in January 22 2009 Chicago Weekly that in the way the University is treating the tenants and existing retail in general, it's "the big bad landlord of urban renewal, updated with new principles of city planning and design."

Lease vacation extended to June, but demo soon thereafter (not satisfactory to some remaining tenants; HPKCC among those worried for tenants and over long vacancies. (These concerns were given to the University at a meeting of HPKCC board with VP Lipinski.)

Harper Court tenants offered extension. University officials: Demolition slated to start after June 30. Hyde Park Herald, January 14, 2009. By Kate Hawley

The University of Chicago on Monday began contacting tenants of the Harper Court shopping center to offer them the chance to stay through June 30-- five months later than the Jan. 31 date the university earlier set to clear the complex. That deadline proved challenging to several tenants. Late last week, some of them didn't have anywhere to go as of Feb. 1, including Plants Alive, the plant shop at 5210 S. Harper Ave.; Artisans 21, the gallery at 5225 S. Harper Ave.; and the district office of state Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13). 5210[D] S. Harper Ave.

"We've heard the concerns of the tenants and we've pushed back the move-out date," said Bob Rosenberg, associate vice president for public affairs. The university, which bought Harper Court in May for $6.5 million, is planning major redevelopment for the site. Along with a city-owned parking lot just to the east, three of Harper Court's four buildings will be razed to make way for a large-scale, mixed-use project.

The buildings will likely meet the wrecking ball shortly after June 30, according to Rosenberg. "When it comes to developing the property, especially in the tough real estate environment, having the property clean and prepped without the tenants and the attendant headaches makes it a more attractive prospect," he said. The buildings are also in poor condition, suffering from mold and flooding, among other problems, he added.

It will probably be several years before any new building starts, since the university and the city are seeking a developer through a competitive public bidding process that will take at least 24 months, according to James Wilson, of the city's Department of Planning and Development. [Note- UC says it will select by December 2009.] How quickly the project progresses after that depends on the market, he has said.

With redevelopment coming down the pike, many of the tenants signed month-to-month leases. Other businesses with longer-term leases are negotiating with the university. News of the extension cheered Rob Borja of Artisans 21, which has been in Harper Court for 30 years. "You're really making my day," he said. "I can live with that." Borja and a few other members of the artist-run gallery were frantically scoping out new locations last week, casting their eyes toward an empty storefront one door west of the Little Black Pearl art and design center, 1060 E. 47th St., and a space in the Chicago Arts District, live-work spaces for artists in the Pilsen neighborhood. Borja said it hasn't been easy to find a space with rent equivalent to the steeply reduced rates offered at Harper Court--built in 1965 to offer affordable retail space to artists displaced by Urban Renewal.

Rosenberg said the university would help Artisans 21 restructure in such a way that rents wouldn't prove such an obstacle. Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) recommended the group to seek help from the Harper Court Arts Council, Borja said. The organization, which sold Harper Court to the university, last month handed out $300,000 in grants in line with its mission to boost local arts and commerce. Borja said Artisans 21 wasn't one of the neighborhood arts groups that received notices from the Arts Council in December announcing that grants were available, but he hoped that help would be forthcoming. "We are, I think, and essential part of the culture of Hyde Park," he said.

Plants Alive, in Harper Court since its opened, was also facing an uncertain future last week. Not only had the store failed to find a new location for a price it could afford, "It's very hard to move a plant shop in January," said co-owner Marjorie Fox. She and co-owner Bruce Kyes were considering a redesign of the business, making it a floral design company without a retail component, she said.

The district office of state Sen. Kwame Raoul, was also in the market for a new location late last week, according to Oreal James, district director for the senator. "We're trying really hard to stay in Hyde Park," he said, adding that finding affordable rent in the neighborhood has proved challenging. "The university has been incredibly helpful," he said. "We understand that everything has to go forward. Hopefully, in the end, this will be really great for Hyde Park."

Maravillas, the Mexican restaurant at 5211 S. Harper Ave., will be ready to open its new location at 5586 S. Lake Park Ave. in February, according to owner Carolina Cossyleon. But being able to keep the Harper Court restaurant open longer will boost her revenue-earning power as she makes the transition, she said.

Even before Monday's announcement, the university had granted an extension until through June so C'est Si Bon catering, 5225 S. harper Ave., said Renee Bradford, who owns the business.

Dixie Kitchen, located in the same building, had also arranged to stay through its lease ending in June, according to owner Carol Andresen, who also owns Calypso Cafe, 5211 S. Harper Ave. She is currently negotiating with the university about when to move Calypso Cafe, which has a lease through June 2012, she said. "We would like the move to be seamless and cost neutral." she said, adding, "We want to be part of the Hyde Park community."

Tom Wake, owner of Hyde Park Animal Clinic, 5210 S. harper ave., said the university has been working hard to find a new place for him in the neighborhood. the clinic's lease is ironclad through June 2013 and negotiable through 2027, he said. "The Hyde Park Animal Clinic is not going anywhere," he said. "The university and I are working with the same common goal." However, they haven't had luck yet. "It's very frustrating," Wake said. "Because of Urban Renewals' bright ideas, there really isn't much commercial space in Hyde Park." Top

Maroon January 13 2009: After renter refuses to leave, Harper Court leases extended. By Ella Christoph

The University of Chicago will extend the leases of businesses in University-owned Harper Court through June 2009, Associate Vice President of Civic Engagement Susan Campbell announced at a Tax Increment Financing meeting Monday evening. The University extended the previous deadline of January 31 after concerns arose over the ability of the businesses currently occupying the retail site to find new sites by that date.

Most of the leases expired at the end of December, but some last for several years. Carol Andresen, the owner of Calypso Cafe and Dixie Kitchen, two businesses with longer leases, had planned on staying past January even before the University announced the extension. But even this extension will not appease Andresen, she said. Her main concern is that although there are a number of retail spaces available on East 53rd Street, unlike Harper Court, they don't provide customers with a parking lot."I have worked with their real estate department, and they have given me a list of properties around Hyde Park. However, we need a specific size and parking... You can't go forward and say, 'I'm going to have a 130-foot restaurant here,' and have no placed for people to park,' she said.

Andresen was also concerned about the costs of moving to a new location and buying new equipment, estimating it would run between $700,000 and $1 million dollars. "We just can't afford that," she said. "The University is willing to buy us out of the lease, but at this point it isn't going to be sufficient for us."

The University had hope to find a mutually beneficial solution so plans for redevelopment could move forward after the majority of the businesses' leases ended in December. Many of the businesses still plan on leaving by the end of the month, especially those whose leases were on a month-to-month basis. Other businesses will take advantage of the extension, especially those with longer leases. Calypso Cafe's lease runs through June 2012, and Dixie Kitchen and C'est Si Bon's run through June 2009. All three restaurants plan on staying past January. "[The University administrators] have been willing to help me find another spot," said Andresen, but the options, she said, were not financially feasible. "We'd love to stay in the neighborhood because we were one of the firsts restaurants that were in the neighborhood, but it may not happen," she said.

Fans of the Dixie Kitchen and Calypso Cafe have offered to sign a petition to help ensure the restaurants' livelihoods, but Andresen said she declined the offer. "We haven't done that yet. we don't want to be bad neighbors," she said. "We want this negotiation to be appropriate and pleasant and good for both sides."

A 2001 episode of the amateur food-critic television show Check, Please! featuring Barack Obama reviewing Dixie Kitchen was recently released onto YouTube, generating national attention for the restaurant. On the day of his inauguration, the restaurant will offer an Obama special, featuring the two dishes he recommends on the show: the Southern sampler and peach cobbler.

C'est Si Bon's owner Renee Bradford is currently looking for a new site for the restaurant and catering service, but she is not collaborating with the University to find a new location. "We're looking every day," she said, adding that she hopes to move out before the June 2009 deadline..... Top

 


Hyde Park Herald, May 20, 2009, 2009, Harper Court Update offered at [May 11] TIF meeting. By Kate Hawley.

The city and The University of Chicago are making progress in identifying the development team for the project to replace Harper Court, a city official said recently. At the May 11 meeting of the 53rd Street Tax Increment Finance District Council, James Wilson of the city's Department of Community Development gave a progress report on the redevelopment of the Harper Court shopping center, owned by the university.

The city is currently narrowing down the field of prospective developers who submitted to a request of for proposals, Wilson said. Five development teams made the first cut. Those still in the running in September will give presentations to the community the TIF council meeting then, Wilson said. The selection process will wrap up by the end of the year. "We expect to see some development within the next couple of years," he said. [Note-several council members expressed skepticism about redevelopment in the next few years.]

Several local residents said they objected to the university's plan to clear out the shopping center this summer, since the new development is at least three years away. "I just think it's irresponsible to clear the land without a developer with leases in hand," said Robyn Kaufman. Irene Sherr, a consultant who has worked with the TIF council and Ald. Preckwinkle (4th), said keeping businesses operating in Harper Court will only prolong the redevelopment.... Top

Calypso Cafe to hold out. (Some of this appears to be negotiations between two parties with strong interests at stake, but it may turn out that no really suitable space is available.)

Herald, May 20, 2009. By Kate Hawley

The University of Chicago has set a June 30 deadline to clear out the Harper Court shopping center to make way for redevelopment, but one business is refusing to budge. Carol Andresen, owner of Calypso Cafe, said she will hang on to her location at 5211 S. Harper Ave. through the end of her lease in June 2001. "After negotiations failed with the university, we decided we would stay there," she said.

the University bought Harper Court last May for $6.5 million, with an eye toward redeveloping it along with the city-owned parking lot next door. The city and the university are now in the process of vetting prospective developers through a competitive bidding process that wil wrap up by the end of the year... The university plans to demolish three of the four buildings that comprise Harper Court, including the one that houses Calypso Cafe. University officials first said they wanted to clear out the shopping center by the end of 2008. They later extended that to Jan. 31 and then to June 30.

Most of the tenants have moved out or do not have long-term leases that will allow them to stay past the deadline. The Hyde Park Animal Clinic, in Harper Court at 5210 S. Harper Ave., has a lease through June 2013, according to owner and veterinarian Tom Wake. With the university's help, he has been trying to find a new location in the neighborhood for the last eight months, he said.

Andresen was working with the university on finding a new home for Calypso Cafe, but those negotiations have apparently stalled. The university would help her move only if she chose a new location in Hyde Park, and nothing with adequate facilities and parking is available in the immediate facility, she said.

Also, she wanted more money for the relocation than the university was willing to provide. "We couldn't come to an agreement on the dollars," she said. "Moving is very expensive." University officials did not return a call seeking comment by the Herald's press time.

Andresen said the Chicago Park District approached her about moving Calypso Cafe to a building on Jackson Park Harbor, but that would "probably be unfeasible" given the deteriorated condition of the building and the costs she would incur to rehab it.

Andresen also owns the Dixie Kitchen and Bait Shop, in harper Court at 5225 S. Harper ave. That restaurant will close June 7, which wil allow enough time to move its equipment adn clean up before tits lease runs out June 30. Andresen said she was frustrated that the university wouldn't let her stay open until June 230 and clean up afterward, since the space will be empty. "They're pressing me a little bit," she said. While Dixie Kitchen will close, several popular dishes -- including gumbo, jambalaya, catfish and fried green tomatoes - wil be added to the Calypso cafe menu, she said. Top

Herald editorial May 20 2009- University getting it wrong at Harper Court- becoming bad for business

Carol Andresen told the Herald last week that she will be sticking around until 2012 at her Calypso Cafe location in Harper Court -- that's how long the lease runs. Dixie Kitchen is to be closed, and the University of Chicago has stopped negotiating with her about relocation of either restaurant. Meanwhile, a city planner tells us that a developer may be selected by the end of the year and that we could see "activity" in the next couple of years.

If the university has found a way to thaw the frozen credit markets, they ought to let someone in Washington know. We expect that it is more likely that this language, much like that use when the old Herald building and Harper Theater's retail businesses were closed many years ago, is at best wishing and at worst empty rhetoric.

The university's rush to to things its way has cost us more businesses again. This time, one of the businesses is just the kind of attractive restaurant we need more of in Hyde Park. It seems unlikely that Calypso stands a chance come 2012 of relocating, so that's another restaurant gone. Regardless of the university's intent, its missteps are numerous enough at this point that we must face an awkward reality: In 2009, having the University of Chicago in Hyde Park is bad for business. It's certainly bad for Carol Andresen's business and for the other businesses struggling to relocate from Harper Court.

How is it possible that an institution that was instrumental in saving the neighborhood mid-century is now such an obstacle to progress? We believe the leadership at the university was once much more able and willing to integrate themselves into the fabric of the community, to see themselves a part of where they were living, than they are now. In years past, the university's top officials lived, ate and worked side by side with Hyde Parker. Are the current problems a symptom of an elitist attitude growing in the university's top ranks?

For those of you who are hoping to get in one last pulled pork sandwich before Dixie Kitchen closes forever, get there before June 7. Lobby Carol for that or whatever else you favor on the menu; she'll be adding a few items from dixie Kitchen onto the Calypso menu.

Meanwhile, we congratulate Artisans 21 for finding a new home on 53rd Street. Their dedication to keeping this local institution alive is inspiring. Hyde Parkers, support this integral part of our neighborhood's culture and community. Your creative neighbors deserve it, and they will be challenged to keep their new location a 1373 E. 53rd st. open with the much more expensive rent they are paying.

We have a suggestion to the university regarding efforts to improve the retail scene in Hyde Park: stop closing so many businesses. Top

Six residents blast UC for not saving viable businesses in Harper Court in open letter to President Zimmer. June 3, 2009

Please reconsider your decision to force the closure this month of Dixie Kitchen, Maravilla's and other tenants remaining in Harper Court. (Note: although Maravilla's has opened a new location on Lake Park, they are currently still operating their restaurant in Harper Court. Dixie Kitchen is scheduled to close this Sunday.)

Calypso Cafe and the Hyde Park Animal Clinic have refused to give up their leases. Thus, you can't clear the property at this time, so why not let the other tenants stay? Everyone agrees we need good restaurants and activity in Hyde Park. Why, then, would you want to make this critical area even more devastated, causing a decrease in retail traffic which will have an adverse impact on the remaining businesses in the area? WHY EVICT A THRIVING RESTAURANT?

We already have numerous development that got stalled even BEFORE the economy's recent downturn--several owned by the university. Chain stores and neighborhood businesses alike are closing, not expanding. What purpose is served by terminating the leases of successful locally owned businesses any earlier than is necessary, for development that could be many, many years away?

If and when a new developer is ready to build, there is still plenty of land available to build in stages, as planned by the developer. People who agree with your long-term plans, as well as those who disagree, are in awe over this most recent turn of events. we know you must be hurting because you were unable to get all the buildings in Harper Court emptied, but please, please take the high road, and do what is in the best interest of the residents and businesses of Hyde Park.

Contact the existing tenants, such as Dixie Kitchen and Maravilla's, immediately, and offer them leases at least until he other existing leases expire.

Robin Kaufman, Eileen Wasserman, Bernice and Frank Rosen, Joan and Charles Staples.

 

Maryal Stone Dale says Herald got that right. May 27, 2009

This is a "support" letter for your editor8al about Harper Court. Every time I read about the University of Chicago's plan for it, I remember when it was created -- history that no one at the university seems to know or care [about]. In fact, I cannot understand how it was possible to buy it from under teh businesses there?

Back in the Dark Ages, the university's president's wife, Muriel Beadle was leading the charge to be sure there was a place for a number of small businesses on 5th Street to when the decision to make 55h Street both residential and open (as in the townhouses, the Neighborhood Club's extensive land and the park) was made. But then neither the university nor the neighborhood was trying to create an amusement park for undergraduates nor fancy hotels to house their visiting parents or more prospective students. The need these things because they don't want any undergraduates to live at home --

The Herald is right. Something is very wrong -- and it seems to be a sense of entitlement the university now has which it totally out of line with the facts. Urban Renewal came to Hyde Park-Kenwood as a result of a huge community effort to help the university not to do what many city institutions were doing -- move to the suburbs. Now the university wishes the rest of us would just get out of their way?

Tribune May 29 2009. Hyde Park eatery's luck goes south. By Joel Hood. Despite a friend in the White House, the Dixie Kitchen & Bait Shop is losing its lease after 15 years as it landlord, the University of Chicago, fishes for developers.

The Hyde Park neighborhood may be enjoying a renaissance with new development and a local guy in the White House, but not even a rave review by that-man-who-would-be-president could save one of its most popular restaurants. The Dixie Kitchen & Bait Shop, a soul and Cajun food joint frequented by aging academics, university students, black community leaders, and just plain ordinary folks since 1994, will shut down June 7, owner Carol Andresen said. Some of the restaurant's most popular dishes-- from gumbo and fried baby catfish to the piping hot Johnny cakes-- will be incorporated into Andresen's sister restaurant, Calypso, which is next door. But most of the menu and most of Dixie Kitchen's staff will not, becoming a casualty of teh growing pains of a neighborhood on the move.

"I feel like Granny Clampett sitting out on my front porch with a shotgun, waiting for the wrecking ball to come," said Andresen, a Hyde Park resident since 1985. "But we're closing down because we really don't have another choice."

Last year, the University of Chicago purchase the 1960s-era Harper Court complex that houses Dixie Kitchen , Calypso, and artists studio and a few other locally owned businesses of 53rd Street, the heart of Hyde Park's commercial and entertainment district. It is not forcing out tenants, but not renewing leases. Dixie Kitchen's lease is up while Calypso's runs until 2012. In a series of meetings with local lawmakers and teh public, the university outlined a plan to transform the antiquated hodgepodge of building into a more modern retail center.

With its mix of students, academics, white-collar and blue-collar workers, few neighborhoods in Chicago are as diverse as Hyde Park and nearby Kenwood, which President Barack Obama and his family call home. So determining the needs and wants of such an eclectic mix is no simple task, said Susan Campbell, the university's associated vice president for civic engagement. Some want more retail shopping, including national chains that are scarce in those parts. Others see a need for more office space, restaurants and the kind of quirky specialty stores more commonly found on the North Side, Campbell said.

And that has some, including Andresen, worried that the reconfigured Harper Court will be too costly for teh small "mom-and-pop" stores and restaurants that have defined it since the 1960's "You'll probably see a Gap or a Starbucks move in her, and it'll be just like any other part of the city," Andresen said. "These buildings were built to promote the ars in Hyde Park, and it'll be sad to see them go."

Andresen and her husband, Paul, were an unlikely pair to strike it big with a Cajun/soul food restaurant in one of the country's most prominent African-american enclaves. The Minnesota couple had some restaurant experience, but had never owned anything like Dixie Kitchen when the opportunity came to leases an oddly-shaped, 2,000-squre-foot space in Harper Court. The Andresens took a look at the neighborhood's diversity and decided the restaurant's menu and decor should pay homage to its African-American roots. Andresen hired chef Chris Miller away from a local hotel, and she still comes in every morning at 5 a.m. to make the desserts and bake the muffins. The couple also hired chefs well-versed in other cuisines.

When Dixie Kitchen opened in 1994, it was an immediate hit. Locals flocked for classic Southern dishes such as shrimp po 'boy sandwiches, fried green tomatoes,crawfish and corn fritters. The Johnny cakes made of fried cornmeal and topped with sweet butter became an instant classic. But Andresen found that customers also responded favorably to the decor, which had weather-worn wood paneling, chipped window frames, old tim cans and antique signs to resemble a country store you might find on the Bayou in the 1930s.

By 1995, Chicago magazine had named Dixie Kitchen one of the 10 best new restaurants in the city. And over the years, Andresen added a second Dixie Kitchen in Evanston and a third in Lansing. "The whole thing just worked together, and people really loved it," Andresen said.

Another boost came during the presidential election when an old taping of the local restaurant review show "Check, Please!" surfaced on-line featuring Obama raving about Dixie Kitchen and , specifically, the Johnny cakes. "Those Johnny cakes, they'll get you early and you won't have room for the peach cobbler," Obama said in the August 2001 taping.

Despite the rocky economy, Dixie Kitchen is as popular today as when it opened. On a recent Thursday night, virtually every table was filed and people mingled outside while awaiting tables. Customers, many of whom had been coming to Dixie Kitchen from the beginning, spoke as if they were losing a member of their family. "I'm just so sad over this," said Hyde Park resident Renee Morissette-Thomas. "I feel like this is being taken away from us, and for what? This is a very special place."

Andresen said she shopped around for another location but couldn't find a space, for the right price, that had adequate size and parking. She's still looking. "The cost of moving a restaurant, especially one this old, is really high and it just seems tough to recreate the same atmosphere somewhere else," Andresen said. "We've had the most wonderful customers for so long. It's sad to have to say goodbye." Top


 

The July 13 2009 TIF meeting heard plans to seek a zoning change in the Freehling building 1365 E. 53rd St. so Hyde Park Animal Clinic can move its outpatient facilities there from Harper Court and its inpatient to South Shore. Also, James Wilson of the City said in effect wait until the September 14 TIF meeting on the HCt. developers.


Here is what the Herald was reporting on July 1, 2009. (Things are basically at a stalemate as far as teardown goes unless/until Dr. Wake moves out of the west building. The southeast building can't come down since it is needed for accessible access to Calypso.) By Daschell M. Phillips.

The University of Chicago's third attempt to clear our Harper court for redevelopment is being stalled by negotiation challenges with lease holders. The University of Chicago bought Harper Court at 5210 S. Harper Ave. last May for $6.5 million with plans to clear out, demolish and redevelop three of the four buildings on the property and the city-owned parking lot to the east of the property. The university initially intended to clear the property out by the end of 2008. They then set a Jan. 31 deadline, which passed. The university's current attempts to clear out the property by the end of June have also proved difficult. Talks have failed with Calypso Cafe, while the Hyde Park Animal Clinic has yet to find a replacement location.

After a nine-month search for new location for the Hyde Park Animal Clinic, both owner Tom Wake and the university said that the animal clinic would soon have a new home. Neither side will name the location during this time of negotiation but he new location is expected to be in Hyde Park, said steve Kloehn, spokesman for the University of Chicago. "Dr. Wake wants to stay in Hyde Park and the university wants him to stay in Hyde Park, so we are working together," Kloehn said. "While the logistics are being worked out he will stay at his current premises." Kloehn would not say whether the clinic would stay open in Harper Court past the university's June 30 deadline if the relocation deal falls through. The Hyde Park Animal Clinic has a lease through June 2013.

Negotiations to relocate Calypso Cafe, which has a lease until June 2012, did not work out, so cafe owner Carol Andresen has decided to stay in Harper Court through the end of the lease, Kloehn said. Starting July 6, the back room of the cafe will be made to look like Andresen's other Harper Court restaurant Dixie Kitchen & Bait Shop, which was located on the southeast side of Harper Court but was closed on June 7.... several.... items will be added to the Calypso menu. Top

 

 

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Initial details on respondents to RFP in early 2009 through descriptions of finalists in summer 2009

(Hyde Park Urbanist has blog article on this portion of the January 2009? TIF meeting, with links to most of the developers and a few of their properties: http://alwaysintransit.typepad.com/hyde_park_urbanist/2009/03/tif-university-presents-harper-court-developer-finalists.html.)

Details emerge on 5 finalists. From bare bones given they seem impressive firms with experience in this kind of mixed development, with thoughtful ideas that take into account what community surveys and exercises have said is wanted. That they will all present from July through September is settled; what is best in each and how "affordable" in the (if TIF-subsidized) housing component (likely to include graduate students) will be met and defined remain to be worked out (Note Ald Preckwinkle says in May 2009 that any graduate housing component will not count toward the 20 percent affordable housing component) :

11 responses were received to the RFQ by the deadline of January 26, 2009. They have since been winnowed to 5 or 6 who will be preparing proposals due in May. All are said to have a graduate student component and 2 to have hotels.

It was said at the TIF meeting March 9 that at least some proposals have a "graduate housing component." Needing clarification is whether that would satisfy a "20 percent affordable" component promised for any housing part of the project getting TIF subsidy-- and whether it should. Also, what is "adult active living". Gary Ossewaarde

U of C, city name finalists for mixed-use project March 9, 2009.

(Crain’s) — The city of Chicago and the University of Chicago have cut the field of real estate firms competing for a proposed mixed-use redevelopment of the Harper Court shopping center to five developers. The finalists, picked from a field of 11 teams, will submit proposals to redevelop a nearly three-acre site at 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue in Hyde Park. A spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Community Development confirms that the five finalists are:

• Block 37 developer Chicago-based Joseph Freed & Associates LLC.

• A joint venture of Chicago-based developer McCaffery Interests Inc. and Skokie-based Taxman Corp.

• A joint venture of Chicago-based Mesa Development and Chicago construction giant Walsh Group.

• Chicago-based developer Metropolitan Properties of Chicago LLC, a firm better known for its residential condominium conversions of older downtown office buildings.

• Vermilion Development Inc., a small Danville firm that opened a Chicago office last year.

The winning bidder is expected to be selected this fall. The project would provide a developer “with a unique opportunity to creatively reshape this area into a cohesive, active neighborhood core,” according to a request for qualifications issued in December. In broad outlines, city and university officials are seeking a retail/residential development that would include a parking structure for 170 to 400 cars.

The site includes the shopping center, which would be demolished, and an adjacent city-owned parking lot. The project is expected to preserve an existing 14,300-square-foot building at 5201 S. Harper Court, which houses the Park 52 restaurant and the Checkerboard Lounge blues club. The project’s cost could be offset with a tax-increment financing subsidy, according to the request for qualifications.
The site has an appraised value of $7.55 million, but a developer’s “purchase price is an important but not primary consideration” for the city and the university, the RFQ says.


Herald fleshes in details. March 18, 2009. By Kate Hawley

Five development teams have made the short list to redevelop the Harper Court shopping center and adjacent city-owned parking lot. The city and the University of Chicago, which bought Harper Court in May [2008] for $6.5 million, are in the process of choosing a developer for the roughly three-acre site, centered at 52nd Street and Harper Avenue.

They listed a request for proposal, or RFP, in December, and received 11 responses from development teams, according to Susan Campbell, associate vice president for civic engagement for the university. She announced the finalists Monday, March 9, at a meeting of the 53rd Street Tax-Increments Financing, or TIF, Advisory Council, held at Kenwood Academy, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave.

The proposals [see below] came from of the biggest names in Chicago real estate. Joseph Freed and Associates LLC is developer of the massive Block 37 development in the Loop. Mesa Development LLC and Walsh Construction is the team behind LaSalle Park, the 18-acre project that did much to bring retail options to the South Loop. A TIF council member, Andre Bromfeld, works with Mea, and so will be recusing himself rom any decision-making about the RFP process, he announced.

Heitman, a real estate investment management firm that is partnering with Metropolitan Properties and Next Realty, has local experience, having worked on the new Hyde Park Art Center at 5020 S. cornell Ave. The company was also behind University Center, the multi-institutional dorm at State Street and Congress Parkway.

Lesser-known companies are also represented, such as Vermillion development, which has a portfolio of mixed-use developments in university towns. McCaffery Interests Inc. and the Taxman Corporation would use their mixed-use "Market Commons" concept, already executed in Clarendon, Va., and Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Though details have not been nailed down at this early stage, Campbell shared some of the major elements in each proposal. Most of them include retail, commercial, graduate student housing and hotel uses. Campbell said the proposals reflected community input from three "visioning workshops" held over the course of the last year that were sponsored by the city, the university, Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) and a wide array of local organizations.

The community will get the chance for more input in the coming months. All five teams wil present their proposals, likely at the TIF meetings in July and September -- a shift from what city and university officials announced at the last TIF meeting on Jan. 12. Campbell and James Wilson of the city's Department of Community Development said then that only one candidate -- the top pick -- would present, while Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) argued that the community should hear from at least three front-runners.

According to the city's Web site, the development teams will submit their final proposals on May 11. Community presentations will take place in July and August 2009, with the final selection process happening in August and September. A purchase/lease redevelopment agreement will be executed by the end of the year.

How quickly the winning development team can move forward from that point depends on its ability to get financing, potentially a challenging proposition given the slumping economy

In the meantime, the university is moving ahead with its plans to clear out the Harper Court complex by June 30. Calypso Cafe, which according to owner Carol Andresen has a lease through 2012, will end its lease by June 30, Campbell said at the TIF meeting. She also said that Park 52 and the Checkerboard Lounge would be allowed to hang onto their leases. That's because the building they occupy, at 5201 S. Harper Ave., will not be torn down to make way for the Harper Court redevelopment.

Hyde Park resident Robin Kaufman asked campbell what the university plans to do with a now-closed Hollywood Video store at 1530 E. 53rd St., property it purchased in January. "Whether or not that gets combined with Harper Court or gets developed independently, the goal is to revitalize 53rd, Campbell said.

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List of finalists, from the March 18 Herald

(Hyde Park Urbanist has blog article on this portion of the TIF meeting, with links to most of the developers and a few of their properties: http://alwaysintransit.typepad.com/hyde_park_urbanist/2009/03/tif-university-presents-harper-court-developer-finalists.html.)

As provided to the Herald by the University of Chicago.

Mesa Development/Walsh Construction

Vermillion Development

Metropolitan Properties/Heitman/Next Realty

McCaffery Interests/The Taxman Corp.

Joseph Freed and Associates

*18-acres

Herald thinks community winning so far. Interprets naming of, plans for all finalists to present, as a major reversal

March 18, 2009.

We are pleased at the unexpected reversal of plans by the University of Chicago to name only the finalists of its search for a developer for Harper Court. Last Monday, five development teams were introduced to the community at the 53rd street TIF Council's monthly meeting. At first glance, they all appear to be variously qualified to take on the job. We note diversity in the uses of a new Harper Court, but, in the consistency of those uses as presented by each development team, we get a sense of the university's intent. The university appears to want a boutique hotel at the spot, as well as some residential, both for students and perhaps for others as well. All of this, of course, is in addition to retail space and possibly business offices.

Diversity of use on this location is an important change in the purpose of the property and one that we think could improve use of the site. That diversity will in turn create a helpful mix of folks coming to the new Harper Court to live, work and shop.

The other consistent theme among the developer's notes on the new Harper Court is density. There are many places where we have said that density would not be appropriate in the neighborhood, where zoning changes did not make sense. Harper Court is not one of those places. It is already a planned development, so the developer would not be getting a "special favor" if the density of the location changed. And the truth is, we need density close to the transit arteries and retail clusters. An increase in the n umber of residents living and working on the northwest corner of 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue would benefit the entire neighborhood.

We like the idea discussed of phasing in the project. Especially in difficult economic times, let's try to get this project built in "doable" increments. There is no ned to make this a massive undertaking that chokes major Hyde Park thoroughfares. The work will be disruptive even in phases, but perhaps more manageably so.

the university has unexpectedly opened a door into the process for perhaps its most important project in the neighborhood at present. Hyde Parkers should digest as much information about these developers as they can get their hands on and let the university know just what they think. Besides improving the ultimate outcome, such feedback will signal to the university that the neighborhood will take advantage of and appreciate o pen dialogue. Although it may not seem to be a lesson that need to be repeated, we cannot say to the university enough times that open, transparent processes are to the benefit of both themselves and the neighborhood.

 

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At April 24 2009 UC Outreach Forum, businesswoman challenges UC to have rents affordable to local businesses in the new Harper Court

[Ann Marie Lipinski, VP for Civic Engagement] included the redevelopment of the Harper Court shopping center and the adjacent city-owned parking lot among the university's outreach efforts, saying that the retail and residential complex planned for the site will boost vitality along Hyde Park's 53rd Street corridor.

During a question and answer session, Sandra Bevans asked if Harper Court's rents will be at levels local business people can afford. "So they're not having to pay $2,500 to $3,000 to rent some space." Susan Campbell, associate vice president for civic engagement, said that while it's too early to say what rent levels at the new complex will be, the university is helping business owners currently in Harper Court to find new locations they can afford. Top

University buys Hollywood Video building, empties it. Says undecided on keeping, maybe re renting, bundling with city lot/Harper Court RFP. Herald, January 18 2009. By Kate Hawley.

Customers of the Hollywood Video at 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue hurried to return their movies late last week, as worker packed up the stock and loaded it onto trucks.

The store's closing comes weeks after the University of Chicago bought the building, 1530 E. 53rd St. A warranty deed filed with Cook County on Jan. 5 shows that Spiros and Mary Argiris of Hickory Hills conveyed the property to Lake Park Associates Inc., a subsidiary of the University of Chicago, on Dec. 31. University spokesman Steve Kloehn confirmed Friday that the university has purchased the property.

Public records don't reveal a price for the parcel. Spiros also owns Valois Cafeteria, the Hyde Park mainstay at 1518 E. 53rd St. [Added: Argiris is believed to have loan arrangements for the buildings with Hyde Park Bank.] The closing of the Hollywood Video store was arranged under the building's previous owner, according to Kloehn, who added, "The university's purchase did not spur the closing." The university has no immediate plans for the building, he said. The store is adjacent to property that the university and the city are planning to redevelop into a major mixed-use complex, a nearly three-acre site [that] includes a city-owned parking lot and the Harper Court shopping center on Harper Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Streets.

"We acquired this land after the arrangement with the city [to redevelop Harper court and the parking lot], so it will be interesting to see how this might contribute or add value," said Bob Rosenberg, associate vice president for public affairs at the university. "In the larger scope of things, it's an opportunity.

The Hollywood Video property might also be redeveloped separately, he said--depending on what works best in the economic downturn. "Look, realistically, we are in a tough time right now," he said. "there's very little money out there right now."...University officials have also held out the possibility that the [Harper Court Area] site might grow to include the Harper Theater and Herald building on the northwest corner of 53rd Street and Harper Avenue. Top



December 8 2008 (published 12th) the Harper Court Area RFQ/RFP went out- see link at top of page.

The January 12 TIF meeting: At the January 12 TIF meeting, Susan Campbell, Bob Rosenberg announced that leases for remaining tenants have been extended to June, but demotion will start soon thereafter. (At least one tenant says ability to relocate in that time if at all will be difficult.) The RFP call is in progress, initial extended to January 26. Alderman Preckwinkle said that the semifinal selectees will present their vision for Harper Court Area, not just the selected finalist.

December 17 the pre-bid informational meeting was held. Somewhere between 6 to 10 teams showed up and asked good questions. The RFP document and the presentation emphases were as expected, including the points stressed by the TIF committee, community, and HPKCC. These included special conditions of Hyde Park, the vicinity, and the site. (The University hedged a bit on incubator space, but variety, mix of scales, core-gateway-destination and day-night vibrancy were stressed as well as serving needs of the area.) Recommended FAR was 2.5 to 5 allowing for density and height in some places like along Lake Park, and keeping and open space. (A good-looking sample that looked like Aaron Cook's charette was shown.) The city, it was revealed, vetoed mid-course multiple presentations by proposers, but it was emphasized that the community would be involved and the project would have to pass owner and community muster in the end. A new sweetener was University commitment to use 100,000 to 150,000 sq ft of office space, and the possibility of some of the residential space for graduate students (assuming, the spokesman indicated afterwards, grad students can afford it). A lot of the questions were on parking and on the potential haz-mat problems found by a Phase I survey. And the time table is to get selection and signing this year.

12 proposals were received as of the deadline of January 26 2009, more than any other such city offering for RFP.

November 18: issuance of RFP for Harper Court was approved by the Community Development Commission for Dec. 8. Details below.

November 19 the HPKCC Development Committee opposed tearing down and complete emptying of the Harper Court until the RFP is further along. The idea was included in letters to Ald. Preckwinkle and Vice President Lipinski of the U of C. HPKCC also joined with Hyde Park Historical Society in recommending the Theater buildings to Chicago Commission on Landmarks for landmark status. Reaffirmed by December 17 meeting.

Meanwhile (Dec. 2008-Jan. 2009), letters to the Herald continued to call for keeping or finding space for Artisans 21, the Calypso and Dixie Kitchen Restaurants, and Dr. Wake Veterinarian. (The latter two seemed reluctant to move and have time on their leases.)

IN LATE OCTOBER 2008 EVICTIONS WERE BEING ACCELERATED, INCLUDING THOSE WHOSE LEASES EXPIRE NOV. 1- THIS INCLUDES HARPER COURT ART FAIR AND THE COMMUNITY ART FAIR. There were differences of view in how much the UC BY THE UC (NEW OWNER OF WHAT HAD BEEN A PUBLIC-PURPOSE PROPERTY) was doing to help with relocation (with impression being given that few of even the most successful businesses are considered worthy or viable of new locations in the neighborhood). Relocation is difficult because there are not many vacancies. Dixie Kitchen and Calypso indicated they would not be moving by Jan. 31 and have leases to mid 2009 and mid 2012 respectively, although the UC says it will tear down the buildings before completion of the selection of developer in late 2009. The Dec. 17 2008 Herald indicated Calypso and Dixie Kitchen (leases to mid 2012 an 2009 respectively) will not be out January 31. UC VP Rosenberg says the University is seeking agreements so the businesses can stay in Hyde Park. The owners of Calypso and Kitchen seemed optimistic about staying in Hyde Park, though any move would be a lot of work, they say. There are just a handful of spaces at the 1400 to 3800 sf size on 53rd, according to Bob Mason of SECC quoted in the article.

A representative of the University confirmed to a member of the HPKCC board that tenants whose lease is monthly or behind have been notified to leave. There are several tenants whose leases are for a fixed number of years and the University is negotiating with these (included are the Calypso and Dixie Kitchen restaurants and veterinarian Tom Wake.) The University believes that the structures are structurally problematic and deteriorated under what was characterized as a “don't fix-don't pay“ previous management arrangement, so it's best to close and take them down, simplifying the way for developer proposals.

From the November 10 TIF meeting: Harper Court RFP was finalized in a hearing at City Hall November 18 and released by the University November 19, for publication December 8 proposed by the Planning Committee are incorporated. (When and whether it's online will be determined.) Susan Campbell of U of C was asked whether restaurants and some other businesses can stay open until plans are further along given the economy (cf. Letter by Robin Kaufman in the Nov. 12 Herald). Ms. Campbell said they continue to work with tenants as they seek alternatives. See report on Nov. RFP Release.
Nov. 15 a block-building exercise with planners and developers- participants found several viable designs. Findings will be discussed by a panel at the January 12 TIF meeting, 7 pm Kenwood Academy Little Theater.

On another note, the Harper Court Arts Council, which received six million dollars for the shopping center, has told the Community Art Fair, for which HCAC has been fiscal agent and supporter nearly two decades in putting on the art fair next to the 57th Street Art Fair, that HCAC has changed its vision and the CFA does not fit in it.

Alderman Preckwinkle told the Annual Meeting of HPKCC in September 2008 that she expects the RFQ and RFP for Harper Court Area to go forward as planned and confirmed by the University at the Sept. 2008 TIF meeting, looking forward to selection of a developer c. summer 2009. Despite community organization insistence that stores remain filled until development is ready to go forward, the University decided to empty Harper Court by the end of January 2009. (It seems the University will make little effort to relocate businesses it considers financially unviable or of little value in a upscale community.) Many fear there will be no development for many years after tear down. The University has declined to participate in a block exercise and wants no more input into what to do with "its" property.
The University told the TIF meeting that it is considering throwing in the 53rd-Ha
rper properties (Theater and Herald)- September 24 the Herald called for gestures on the part of the University that it is committed to open process and taking community needs into account. Coverage in Harper Theater RFP and TIF council meetings.

From the official minutes of the September 8, 2008 TIF meeting:
53rd and Harper U. of C. Property Update: Susan Campbell, U. of C., reported that the University is still waiting to find a developer for the property, given that its previous developer was terminated in June for its failure to meet contract specs. The property is in disrepair. According to Jo Reizner, VP of Real Estate for the University, the property is deteriorating and may have to be razed. it is possible that this property may become part of the Harper Court development. All public comments were incorporated into the RFQ for the Harper Court development.

October 1 2008 the Herald confirmed that the Court would indeed be vacated by January 31 (a one month extension--most tenants were upset) and soon thereafter torn down. Schedule for RFP is as was although may include the Theater/Herald bldgs site. Some say minimal consideration and help is being given to current, viable tenants or keeping space filled until plans are ripe, or encouraging startup and marginal businesses.

By Kate Hawley
Harper Court will be empty by Jan.31 and may be demolished shortly thereafter.

Officials from the University of Chicago, which bought the shopping center in May, first told the current tenants that they had until the end of the year to move out, according to Robert Rosenberg, associate vice president for community affairs. That deadline was extended to Jan. 31 a few weeks ago, he said.

Renee Bradford, who has run C'est Si Bon catering at 5225 S. Harper Ave. in Harper Court for nearly 18 years, complained that the deadline doesn't give her enough time to find a new location and get the permits she needs to start over again. Carolina Cossyleon, owner of Maravillas, the Mexican restaurant at 5211 S. Harper Ave., agreed, saying "We need more time." Although she's well on her way to opening a new location at 5586 S. Lake Park Ave., she would like to bolster it with revenue from the Harper Court location, she said.

Both women said they're upset that their viable businesses will be displaced when the university doesn't have details ironed out for Harper Court's development. "It's reprehensible and indicative of arrogance," Bradford said. "You don't even know what you want to do with [the property]."

Three of Harper Courts' buildings, located along Harper Avenue between 52nd and 53rd streets, are slated for demolition to make way for a new mixed-use complex. A fourth building at 5201 S. Harper, where the new restaurant Park 52 is located, will not be razed. The city and the university are planning to seek a developer for Harper Court and the adjoining city-owned parking lot through a competitive bidding process called request for proposals, or RFP. University officials have said they may also include the Harper Theater and Herald building on the northwest corner of 53rd Street and Harper Avenue as part of the package.

Bradford said university officials told her that the planed to demolish the Harper Court buildings to make the property more appealing to prospective developers. "It's true that a clean site will be most attractive to developers, but that's not why we would be demolishing the structure or forcing anyone out," Rosenberg said. The poor condition of the buildings, and their increasing vacancy as business owners seek better long-term prospects, makes demolition the most financially viable option, he said.

Business owners have received a list of resources to help them relocate, he said, but he acknowledged that some of them are paying such low rent that they will have a hard time finding another place to set up shop. "Most of them are on a rent structure where there really aren't alternatives," he said. Most of the tenants either have month-to-month leases or on leases at all, he said. One of the few businesses with a lease that extends past Jan. 31 is the Hyde Park Animal Clinic, 5210 S. Harper Ave.

Owner Dr. Top Wake said he's happy to leave before his lease is up because he believes the university will help him find a new location in Hyde Park. "I'm confident that the university is not going to leave the community without veterinary services even for a month or two," he said. Wake said he can't wait to leave Harper Court, which has been plagued by flooding and other problems. "This was not designed at all thoughtfully, and it was not built well, and it needs to come down -- yesterday," he said. "This is not a place that makes any economic or other kind of sense at all." Top

Robin Kaufman cautions against just kicking tenants out and tearing the Court Down when the businesses may not find spaces and the Court may not be redeveloped for quite a while. Herald, November 12, 2008

An open letter to President Robert Zimmer, University of Chicago, The University of Chicago Real Estate Office.
It's time to reconsider your efforts to empty Harper Court by Jan. 31.

Given the current state of the economy, a new project of the scale you envision is highly improbable in the foreseeable future. After the stock market crash of 1929 it was decades before our neighborhood saw any new construction.

We need retail in Hyde Park now. Please join with the community and merchants to find ways to keep the locally owned businesses we have, to serve us until the economy improves. Dixie Kitchen, Artisans 21, Calypso Cafe, Hyde Park Animal Clinic, C'est Si Bon, Maravillas Restaurant, US Computech and several non-profits are still operating in Harper Court. It is unlikely that all these would reopen, even if they could find new locations and the necessary financing, which is iffy.

You have already emptied the Herald building. The 55rd Street and Cornell lot has been awaiting redevelopment for years, and the shopping center at 51st Street and Lake Park Avenue is being emptied.

We finally have some nightlife with Checkerboard (thank you), and with Chant. Closing Harper Court will have a negative impact on foot traffic and remaining businesses on 53rd Street. Perhaps you are counting on Olympic fever to reinvigorate things. Well, that decision is still a year away, and the Olympics IF it comes to Chicago, is still seven years off.

Is a decimated neighborhood really what you want to show all the people coming to see the "home town" of our next president?

HPKCC said similar in letters in November to the University's VP for Civic Engagement and to Ald. Preckwinkle. Rob Borja in the Herald Dec. 3 said same:

How does Hyde Park (or the University of Chicago, for that matter) benefit from having the Harper Court property standing vacant for years along with the Hyde Park Herald building, Harper Theater and empty stores in the Village Shopping Center? The real estate field will be convalescing for some time.

With the loss of our veterinarian, four restaurants, Artisans 21, etc., will all of this abandoned property improve our lot? Our spirits? Our present? Our future? Harper Court continues to "support local artisans and business people," as reported in the Nov. 26 Herald, for which it was created.

Is the Jan. 31 eviction plan premature? Again, according to the Nov. 26 Herald, "Choosing a developer will take about 24 months from the time the [request for proposals] is issued, with proposals due to the city on May 11."

Helenmary Sheridan says in January 22 2009 Chicago Weekly that in the way the University is treating the tenants and existing retail in general, it's "the big bad landlord of urban renewal, updated with new principles of city planning and design."

 

On the solicitation of RFP announced after agreement between city and University November 18, 2008 and Susan Campbell's thoughts on uses of Harper Court and retail redevelopment in Hyde Park.

University and city solicit Harper Court development partners. Chicago Maroon, November 21, 2008. By Ella Christoph

The University moved forward with plans to bring mixed-use development to Harper Court on Tuesday, beginning the process that will allow developers to submit proposals for the site. The University asked the city for a Request for Proposal (RFP), a city document that solicits responses from developers on how they would develop the site.

In May, the University purchased Harper Court, a shopping center on South Harper Avenue between East 53rd and East 52nd Streets that had largely fallen into disrepair. The purchase came as part of a larger University effort to revitalize Hyde Park. Fourth Ward Alderman Toni Preckwinkle has aided the effort to make the site more appealing to developers, adding a city-owned parking lot adjacent to the property last year.

The University and the city's development office issued the joint RFP for the three-acre site. The RFP request is the first step in redeveloping Harper Court and the adjacent lot. The U of C has been working closely with the community for the stated purpose of ensuring that residents' needs are identified and incorporated into the project. The University collaborated with Preckwinkle and the city's Department of Planning and Development to request the RFP, and plans to continue working with the community in planning the development.

According to Associate Vice President of Civic Engagement Susan Campbell, the Hyde Park community, as well as faculty and staff, have asked the University to take a more active role in making Hyde Park a safe and lively neighborhood. "[The site] could be redeveloped and serve as a catalyst, if you will, for redevelopment of the entire corridor," Campbell said.

the University hopes to create a destination retail center that might include restaurants, retail, a movie theater, and a boutique hotel. According to Campbell, students have also expressed a strong desire to have a late-night diner. There are also prospective plans to create housing on the site. Increased density on 53rd Street, Campbell said, would help support better quality uses of the space.

"I think we're looking or both [chains and local businesses] because I think both are necessary for a successful mix that can be sustainable," Campbell said. "What the chains provide is a sense -- they anchor an area and provide a sense of community."

However, local businesses would differentiate Harper Court from other retail opportunities, according to Campbell. "Since Hyde Park is so diverse, we have great interest in strong representations by local businesses," she said. Highlighting the unique diversity of Hyde Park through distinctive local businesses might also attract shoppers from outside the neighborhood.

In the past, Hyde Park has faced difficulties attracting businesses because of a lack of clear statistical data about Hyde Park's population and demographics. "I think what our challenge is, is to basically provide data and information to retailers about the spending patterns of such a diverse population," Campbell said. "For example, students and their spending patterns don't end up in those standard means because they don't always list Hyde Park as their residence."

A large working daytime population commutes to Hyde Park but does not live here, and its spending in Hyde Park has not been quantified. Additionally, Campbell said, spending patterns by the black community have been significantly underrepresented for years. Currently a lot of spending by Hyde Park residents occurs outside of the neighborhood. "People leave the area with their dollars and spend it, for example, down on Roosevelt Road," Campbell said.

"From our own personal perspective, having a quality environment in which you work and live is a strong recruitment and retention tool," Campbell said. The University's increased interest in the neighborhood follows a growing trend of university engagement with residents and commercial development. Other universities, such as Yale, MIT, Stanford, Harvard, Brown, and the University of Pennsylvania, have attracted residents and commercial activity through mixed-use projects in recent years.


Herald coverage of OK for RFP, November 26, 2008. By Kate Hawley

The University of Chicago and the city got approval Tuesday, Nov. 18 from the Chicago Community Development Commission to begin formally seeking a developer for the Harper Court Shopping center and the adjoining parking lot. With the commission's OK, a request for proposals, or RFP, will be released Dec. 8, according to James Wilson, project manager for the city's Department of Planning and Development. The RFP is a two-part competitive bidding processes: first a request for qualifications wil be issued, and then developers who make the cut will be invited to submit proposals.

The goal, university and city officials have said, si a dense, well-populated development that will include commercial, retail, housing and other uses. High-quality architecture is also a big priority, Wilson told the commission.

Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th), whose ward includes the Harper Court properties, added that the project "has been thoroughly vetted in the community," with two years of public meetings and, in recent months, three community workshops designed to help residents envision the future of the 53rd St. commercial corridor.

Choosing a developer will take about 24 months from the time the RFP is issued, with proposals due to the city on May 11, according to Wilson. How quickly the project progresses once a development team takes over "depends on the market," he said. The target price for the parcels is $7.7 million, or $61 per square foot*, Wilson said. Harper Court, purchased by the university in May for $6.5 million, is located in four buildings along Harper Avenue between 52nd and 53rd streets. The city-owned parking lot sits just to the east. Both properties fall within the boundaries of the 53rd Street Tax-Increment Financing district.

The Harper Court shopping center, which opened in 1965 with a mission to support local artisans and businesspeople, will be empty by Jan. 31, university officials have said. The complex will be demolished as some point after that, but a date has not been set, according to Robert Rosenberg, associate vice president for community affairs at the university. The building at 5201 S. Harper Ave., Harper Court's northernmost structure, will not be torn down as part of the redevelopment . The building houses the newly opened Park 52 restaurant and the Checkerboard Lounge, which has a lease good through 2012, according to Wilson. Both businesses will have the option to renew their leases, he said.

*This seems on the high side for such vacant land and may encourage going dense and high.


(from TIF report, same issue, by Sam Cholke) Representatives from the University of Chicago said they are still working with Harper Court businesses to help them relocate before leases expire at the end of the year. Except for the Park 52 restaurant and the Hyde Park Animal Clinic, most leases at the Shopping center will have ended in early January, said Susan Campbell, associate vice president adn director of the office of community affairs at the University of Chicago.

"We're still working with tenants of Harper Court trying to find them places to relocate," Campbell said. Campbell shared these plans during a sparsely attended Nov. 14 meeting of the 53rd Street Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Council. It will be close to a year before a developer is picked, said James Wilson, 4th Ward coordinating planner for the Department of Planning and Development.

Campbell told the audience that they wanted to help businesses from Harper Court get set up in a new location as quickly as possible, though the university was still flexible if a suitable location could not be found before leases expires.

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On the HPKCC board's January 8 2009 meeting with Ann Marie Lipinski, UC Vice President for Civic Engagement

Hyde park Herald report January 14 by Sam Cholke. Our own will appear soon.
Ann Marie Lipinski, vice president of civic engagement at the University of Chicago, paid her first visit to the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference (HP-KCC) Jan. 14 [sic] to answer questions about Harper Court and other recent university developments.

"We're having to really handhold," Lipinski said of the recently released request for proposals for Harper Court. Lipinski noted the difficult real estate market the university was facing, but remained optimistic. "We are going to get bids on this," she said.

James Withrow, chair of the HPKCC transportation committee, questioned Lipinski on the university's future intentions to be a major actor in retail development in Hyde Park. "We're not a retail expert," Lipinski said. She characterized the university as a "catalyzer" for development in the community. "The university can bring in the people who are experts. Hopefully, that's a successful model," she said.

Several members of the board, including President George Rumsey, expressed their concern that the university was shying away from soliciting community opinions on decisions that affect the neighborhood as a whole. "There's this sense that the decisions have already been made and it doesn't matter what you say or think," Rumsey said.

Consensus can be a tricky word, Lipinski said. She assured the board that community opinions on Harper Court were being heard and considered by the Office of Civic Engagement and reinforced her staff's commitment to including the neighborhood's interests in university decisions. "We'll work to get back in your good graces," she said.

Lipinski's stop at the HPKCC monthly meeting was one in a series of planned visits to solicit community groups' concerns. Lipinski took her post at the university Oct. 1 and became chair of the board of the University of Chicago Charter School this month. Top

Lease vacation extended to June, but demo soon thereafter (not satisfactory to some remaining tenants; HPKCC among those worried for tenants and over long vacancies. (These concerns were given to the University at a meeting of HPKCC board with VP Lipinski.)

Harper Court tenants offered extension. University officials: Demolition slated to start after June 30. Hyde Park Herald, January 14, 2009. By Kate Hawley

The University of Chicago on Monday began contacting tenants of the Harper Court shopping center to offer them the chance to stay through June 30-- five months later than the Jan. 31 date the university earlier set to clear the complex. That deadline proved challenging to several tenants. Late last week, some of them didn't have anywhere to go as of Feb. 1, including Plants Alive, the plant shop at 5210 S. Harper Ave.; Artisans 21, the gallery at 5225 S. Harper Ave.; and the district office of state Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13). 5210[D] S. Harper Ave.

"We've heard the concerns of the tenants and we've pushed back the move-out date," said Bob Rosenberg, associate vice president for public affairs. The university, which bought Harper Court in May for $6.5 million, is planning major redevelopment for the site. Along with a city-owned parking lot just to the east, three of Harper Court's four buildings will be razed to make way for a large-scale, mixed-use project.

The buildings will likely meet the wrecking ball shortly after June 30, according to Rosenberg. "When it comes to developing the property, especially in the tough real estate environment, having the property clean and prepped without the tenants and the attendant headaches makes it a more attractive prospect," he said. The buildings are also in poor condition, suffering from mold and flooding, among other problems, he added.

It will probably be several years before any new building starts, since the university and the city are seeking a developer through a competitive public bidding process that will take at least 24 months, according to James Wilson, of the city's Department of Planning and Development. [Note- UC says it will select by December 2009.] How quickly the project progresses after that depends on the market, he has said.

With redevelopment coming down the pike, many of the tenants signed month-to-month leases. Other businesses with longer-term leases are negotiating with the university. News of the extension cheered Rob Borja of Artisans 21, which has been in Harper Court for 30 years. "You're really making my day," he said. "I can live with that." Borja and a few other members of the artist-run gallery were frantically scoping out new locations last week, casting their eyes toward an empty storefront one door west of the Little Black Pearl art and design center, 1060 E. 47th St., and a space in the Chicago Arts District, live-work spaces for artists in the Pilsen neighborhood. Borja said it hasn't been easy to find a space with rent equivalent to the steeply reduced rates offered at Harper Court--built in 1965 to offer affordable retail space to artists displaced by Urban Renewal.

Rosenberg said the university would help Artisans 21 restructure in such a way that rents wouldn't prove such an obstacle. Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) recommended the group to seek help from the Harper Court Arts Council, Borja said. The organization, which sold Harper Court to the university, last month handed out $300,000 in grants in line with its mission to boost local arts and commerce. Borja said Artisans 21 wasn't one of the neighborhood arts groups that received notices from the Arts Council in December announcing that grants were available, but he hoped that help would be forthcoming. "We are, I think, and essential part of the culture of Hyde Park," he said.

Plants Alive, in Harper Court since its opened, was also facing an uncertain future last week. Not only had the store failed to find a new location for a price it could afford, "It's very hard to move a plant shop in January," said co-owner Marjorie Fox. She and co-owner Bruce Kyes were considering a redesign of the business, making it a floral design company without a retail component, she said.

The district office of state Sen. Kwame Raoul, was also in the market for a new location late last week, according to Oreal James, district director for the senator. "We're trying really hard to stay in Hyde Park," he said, adding that finding affordable rent in the neighborhood has proved challenging. "The university has been incredibly helpful," he said. "We understand that everything has to go forward. Hopefully, in the end, this will be really great for Hyde Park."

Maravillas, the Mexican restaurant at 5211 S. Harper Ave., will be ready to open its new location at 5586 S. Lake Park Ave. in February, according to owner Carolina Cossyleon. But being able to keep the Harper Court restaurant open longer will boost her revenue-earning power as she makes the transition, she said.

Even before Monday's announcement, the university had granted an extension until through June so C'est Si Bon catering, 5225 S. harper Ave., said Renee Bradford, who owns the business.

Dixie Kitchen, located in the same building, had also arranged to stay through its lease ending in June, according to owner Carol Andresen, who also owns Calypso Cafe, 5211 S. Harper Ave. She is currently negotiating with the university about when to move Calypso Cafe, which has a lease through June 2012, she said. "We would like the move to be seamless and cost neutral." she said, adding, "We want to be part of the Hyde Park community."

Tom Wake, owner of Hyde Park Animal Clinic, 5210 S. harper ave., said the university has been working hard to find a new place for him in the neighborhood. the clinic's lease is ironclad through June 2013 and negotiable through 2027, he said. "The Hyde Park Animal Clinic is not going anywhere," he said. "The university and I are working with the same common goal." However, they haven't had luck yet. "It's very frustrating," Wake said. "Because of Urban Renewals' bright ideas, there really isn't much commercial space in Hyde Park." Top

From the Herald Jan. 21 2009 report on the January 12 TIF meeting:

The workshops, sponsored by the TIF council, Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) an a range of other city and community groups, showed people in the community like the vibrant, busy streetscapes the denser buildings can help create, she said.

University of Chicago officials also came to the meeting to upgrade the community on progress at Harper Court. Leases will be extended to June 30, five months after the Jan. 31 deadline initially set by the university to clear the complex, according to Susan Campbell, associate vice president and director of the university's Office of [Civic Engagement]. "Our rationale for vacating the property is primarily to prepare it for development," she said.

The process of finding a developer is moving forward, Campbell said. The city and the university issued a request for proposals, or RFP, on Dec. 8 and held a pre-proposal meeting and site tour for developers on Dec. 17. "We've been hearing from some very strong development companies," Campbell said. The RFP for harper Court has two parts. The first part is a request for qualifications, or RFQ, in which developers submit their credentials. Campbell said the RFQ deadline has been extended from Jan. 19 to Jan. 26. The second part asks developers who made the cut to submit their proposals for review. That deadline is May 11, according to the city's Web site. To see the harper Court RFP and the timeline for the project, visit the city's Web site at cityofchicago.org. Click, on City Departments, then Planning and Development, then Land Sale Information. Harper Court is among several projects listed on the page. [For direct full link, visit our 53rd Vision Report page.]

There was some dispute at the meeting about whether the community will see proposals from the top three developers who submitted to the RFP, or only the top one. Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) said the community has always heard from the three front-runners, while Campbell and James Wilson of the city's Department of Planning and Development said only the top candidate will present.

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Maroon January 13 2009: After renter refuses to leave, Harper Court leases extended. By Ella Christoph

The University of Chicago will extend the leases of businesses in University-owned Harper Court through June 2009, Associate Vice President of Civic Engagement Susan Campbell announced at a Tax Increment Financing meeting Monday evening. The University extended the previous deadline of January 31 after concerns arose over the ability of the businesses currently occupying the retail site to find new sites by that date.

Most of the leases expired at the end of December, but some last for several years. Carol Andresen, the owner of Calypso Cafe and Dixie Kitchen, two businesses with longer leases, had planned on staying past January even before the University announced the extension. But even this extension will not appease Andresen, she said. Her main concern is that although there are a number of retail spaces available on East 53rd Street, unlike Harper Court, they don't provide customers with a parking lot."I have worked with their real estate department, and they have given me a list of properties around Hyde Park. However, we need a specific size and parking... You can't go forward and say, 'I'm going to have a 130-foot restaurant here,' and have no placed for people to park,' she said.

Andresen was also concerned about the costs of moving to a new location and buying new equipment, estimating it would run between $700,000 and $1 million dollars. "We just can't afford that," she said. "The University is willing to buy us out of the lease, but at this point it isn't going to be sufficient for us."

The University had hope to find a mutually beneficial solution so plans for redevelopment could move forward after the majority of the businesses' leases ended in December. Many of the businesses still plan on leaving by the end of the month, especially those whose leases were on a month-to-month basis. Other businesses will take advantage of the extension, especially those with longer leases. Calypso Cafe's lease runs through June 2012, and Dixie Kitchen and C'est Si Bon's run through June 2009. All three restaurants plan on staying past January. "[The University administrators] have been willing to help me find another spot," said Andresen, but the options, she said, were not financially feasible. "We'd love to stay in the neighborhood because we were one of the firsts restaurants that were in the neighborhood, but it may not happen," she said.

Fans of the Dixie Kitchen and Calypso Cafe have offered to sign a petition to help ensure the restaurants' livelihoods, but Andresen said she declined the offer. "We haven't done that yet. we don't want to be bad neighbors," she said. "We want this negotiation to be appropriate and pleasant and good for both sides."

A 2001 episode of the amateur food-critic television show Check, Please! featuring Barack Obama reviewing Dixie Kitchen was recently released onto YouTube, generating national attention for the restaurant. On the day of his inauguration, the restaurant will offer an Obama special, featuring the two dishes he recommends on the show: the Southern sampler and peach cobbler.

C'est Si Bon's owner Renee Bradford is currently looking for a new site for the restaurant and catering service, but she is not collaborating with the University to find a new location. "We're looking every day," she said, adding that she hopes to move out before the June 2009 deadline..... Top

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A Harper Court HPKCC timeline

Two years or more of retreats supposedly precedes decision to sell; HCt Foundation consults stakeholders who keep the matter confidential. However, Harper Court minutes show active negotiations to sell, including with the University started before the start of 2003 and were quite intense.
January 2003- board votes to sell, forms strategic committee. Appraisal says $4-$5 m.
March 2003- University interested, board notes need to keep under wraps, issue disinformation if necessary. I April 2 members set to meet with Hank Webber, Jo Reizner
By December 2003 the board feels UC stalling, opens to all offers, considg. sealed bids.
June 2005 all negotiations with University at an end
November? 2005: Foundation's lawyer brings a buyer to Harper Court
December. Harper Court Foundation turns over assets (shopping center) to Harper Court Arts Council (HPAC) and a buyer is announced
Feb 2 2006: Neighbors to Save HC spoke to HPKCC board
Feb 9: George Rumsey, George Davis, Carol Bradford, Charles Custer meet with Asst. Atty. Gen. Therese Harris
Feb 10: Letter to Harper Court requesting meeting with them at their convenience
Feb 17: Word given that the Arts Council will speak at the March 13 TIF meeting
Feb 21: HPKCC Exec. Committee drafts a public response and questions to HCAC
Feb 27: HPKCC letter forwarded to Atty Gen's office with comments, Herald articles
Mar 1: HPKCC letter in Herald, community meetings planned
Mar 13: TIF meeting presentation by HCAC, RFP process formally announced, input requested
Mar 28: At HPKCC planning meeting, Alderman Preckwinkle announces inclusion of the city parking lot and switch to a city RFP process.
Apr 5: HCAC has press release in Herald.
April: 3 tenants (Nancy Stanek of Toys Et Cetera, Dr. Wake of he HP Animal clinic, Paul Andresen of Dixie Kitchen, Calypso) offer to buy out the center, HCAC refuses.
Apr 11: HPKCC community forum on future of Harper Court
Apr 25: HPKCC working groups meeting on principles and guidelines for RFP
May 8: TIF meeting to hear reports from HCAC, HPKCC
June 8: HPKCC asks HCAC to meet with HPKCC committee; at end of June HPAC says after TIF mtg., then mtg. with Dept. of Planning. Never happens.
Hans Morsbach proposes a tenant-based new board.
Community members (Des Jardins) get Harper Court minutes previous 2 years from state via FOI.
July 10: HCAC presents statement of principles (incorporating community comments although weakened). Most comments are distrustful and express desire for the current Harper board to step aside and Harper Court to be largely left alone and the RFP stopped. Former Harper Court Foundation board minutes (clearly not expected by HCAC to be obtained) were source of accusations over past secret sale efforts. HCAC says ay they will meet with HPKCC after meeting with the city. August 3 they say they will be in touch to schedule a meeting. Later they can’t meet to decide to meet until after Labor Day.
Late July: series of Herald reports document 3 years of Harper Court negotiations to sell the center.
August 3 HPKCC board reiterates primacy of keeping to the original mission, real public process, need for ways for current tenants to stay in business during and after any development, and inadequacy of the HCAC board to run a sale or manage realized assets.
August sees more strong editorials, letters.
By mid Sept. HCAC and city hadn’t met. Ald. Preckwinkle, citing HPAC mismanagement, announces the city will handle the RFP and sale (it's starting as of September 2006 with new appraisal and the process is expected to be slow but certain); the Arts Council will only realize its share of profit rom the sale.
Sept.-Oct. Rep. Currie backs original purpose and considering residents' needs.

December: There is no update; appraisal still is not done. (Guess- we will hear nothing before the February election. And indeed in January we learned the city found the appraisal it received unacceptable. Next step uncertain.)
January 2007- Nancy Stanek's Toys Et Cetera, tenant, moved out, she and the veterinarian saying that teardown is likely. Later Dr. Wax gets in lease trouble, told to leave
Fall 2007- RFP process starts to move again; HPKCC Development Committee plans meeting, survey with TIF committees; physical visioning comm'd by HPKCC
. December 8 53rd Street Vision Workshop with Dept. Plg., CMAP attracts over 150 residents.
February 2008. Visioning sessions begin with planner Aaron Cook; Survey held Feb. 20-Mar. 20; Feb. 26 public forum on Harper Court future.
Reports on Survey being prepared; call for ideas in advance of an RFQ/RFP process to start c May 12 TIF meeting
May 2008 it's announced the UC has bought Harper Court, will continue the RFP process-- but the ground of expectations was altered by purchase.
May-July public comments were sought on principles for RFP, revised by TIF Planning Committee.
November the parties approve RFP text and issuance, done December 8. Pre bid meeting held December 17, 1st deadline Jan. 19 ext. to 26th.
November 15 block exercise included Harper Court, none of the concept was fully viable for return on investment, but within range of tweaking.
January: the University extended deadline for tenants to vacate from January 31 2009 to June; extensive criticism of haste to vacate. Ald. Preckwinkle reaffirms that the finalists will be asked to present, not just selected finalist.

Early 2008 Timeline on Community Priorities for Harper Court and the Adjacent City Parking Lot.

by George Rumsey, HPKCC President

9-Dec 53rd Street Vision Workshop
19-Dec HPKCC Development Committee Meets- follow-up meeting to 53rd Street Vision Workshop
10-Jan HPKC Development Committee
14-Jan TIF Council Meeting. Alderman Preckwinkle requests HPKC work with TIF on community input.
23-Jan TIF Neighborhood & Business committee/HPKCC Development. Large community group with representatives from TIF, HPKCC, OWL, SECC, Chamber of Commerce, Coalition for Equitable Community Development, and Harper Court Arts Council agrees to conduct an online survey; Trish Morse (HPKCC), Charles Newsome ((TIF), Gary Ossewaarde (HPKCC) to draft summary
4-Feb TIF/HPKCC Meeting on Survey. Survey content roughly finalized; Irene Sherr, George Rumsey, Jane Comiskey, and Pat Wilcoxen finalize content and test survey questions
23-Feb Survey launched. Publicity on-going
26-Feb HPKCC/TIF forum on RFPs
3-Mar [set date for] TIF/HPKCC Development Progress Meeting (7 pm Neighborhood Club).

April 2008- University of Chicago buys Harper Court, speaks in general terms at May TIF meeting of general intent to continue RFQ/P process.
May TIF - Opened for comment on RFP principles; many submitted.
May- Vision 53 exercise part II looks up close at 53rd St, harper, 51st.
May 27 TIF Planning and Dev. subcommittee meets publicly and substantially revises principle document
Summer-fall- city and owner evaluation of comments, work on the RFP document, held back until after November 15 Vision 53 block exercise
November 18 Community Development Commission approves RFP, which is released December 8. December 17 pre-bid meeting. The timeline is found in the RFP Document (visit Harpercourtsalerfp page); deadline for initial submittal is May 2009.

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