Text of HPKCC letters on development issues including Harper Court sent in December 2008 to UC VP Civic Engagement Ann Marie Lipinski and to Alderman Toni Preckwinkle

Development home. 53rd Street. Harper Court home. Harper Theater RFP.

Text of letter of December 8 to Ann Marie Lipinski:

Ann Marie Lipinski
Vice President for Civic Engagement
The University of Chicago
5801 S. Ellis, #605
Chicago, IL 60637

Dear Ms. Lipinski:

Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Development Committee is very appreciative that the RFP for Harper Court Area is being published. The community, through lengthy public and informal processes, has reached substantial consensus on the principles and expectations for this proposed development, and 53rd Street and beyond. We also discovered through interaction with experts that a range of options are viable, including ones lower in height and scale than often assumed.

We are confident that developers will be found who can produce a product that is of high quality; contextual; and a creative model in approaches to meeting needs for pedestrian, transportation and parking access, and green—sustainable and with a variety of kinds of usable, active open space.

We agree that development must be mixed, but stress that it must increase the variety and amount of retail, retail types, office and community space, certainly entertainment, but not just what is thought desirable for members of the University community but also for residents in the larger community of many incomes and tastes, surrounding communities and far beyond—it must be a appealing destination also if it’s going to work. So variety, creativity and flexibility will be essential.

We expect this development to contain substantial housing, and much of it should be truly affordable. Finally, such a development needs to include spaces for small local shopkeepers and entrepreneurs, as its predecessor was established to do and often did, adding to Hyde Park’s vibrant mix. The University recognized the value of the unusual by bringing in the Checkerboard Lounge.

Last June we wrote President Zimmer of our concern at the first signs, first with Harper Theater then purchase of Harper Court, of an impatience by the university to empty properties planned for development, let them sit and deteriorate or hastily tear them down—at least years before plans are ready, and a tendency to discount that several spaces remain viable and can serve better with continued occupancy for a while—as some must because years remain on their leases. Such haste counters the clear need for both more retail and high occupancy rates and creates a bad impression of our, and our President-Elect’s hometown. After all, the whole world is watching and asking.

We thank you for your continuing assistance to vacating tenants and ask that you redouble your commitment. The difficulty finding suitable places underscores the need for a keep-until-we-grow policy toward commercial occupancy.

With regard to the Harper Theater buildings, we think you had been on the right track, aided by much public input. We do not believe the case is hopeless. Please keep these walls and from them create a monument to our “Yes We Can” spirit.

Sincerely,

George W. Rumsey, President,

Gary M. Ossewaarde, Vice President and Development Chair
Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference

 

Letter of December 8 2008 to Alderman Toni Preckwinkle:

Hon. Toni Preckwinkle (4th)
4659 S. Cottage Grove Ave. 2nd floor
Chicago, IL 60653

Dear Toni:

Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Development Committee is very appreciative that the RFP for Harper Court Area is being published and that you have given residents an opportunity to express their hopes for this development and the entire 53rd Street area through the Vision planning exercises and the TIF.

The community has reached substantial consensus and discovered through interaction with experts that a range of options are viable, including ones lower in height and scale. We are confident that developers will be found who can produce a product that is of high quality; contextual; and a creative model in approaches to needs for pedestrian, transportation and parking access, and green—sustainable and with a variety of kinds of usable open space.

Such development first must be mixed development that increases the variety and amount of retail, retail types and entertainment for residents in a community of many incomes and tastes and has to be a destination if it’s going to work. Second, it will increase housing, but much of it should be truly affordable. Third, such development needs to include spaces for small local shopkeepers and entrepreneurs to set up or continue in business, adding to the vibrant mix.

As we wrote last June, we continue to be disturbed at the haste, particularly of the University, to empty properties planned for development and let them sit and deteriorate or hastily tear them down—either probably at least two years before plans are ready, and to disregard that several spaces may well serve better with continued occupancy for a while—as some in Harper Court must because years remain on their leases. Such haste counters the clear need for more retail and creates a bad impression of our and our President-Elect’s hometown.

We thank you for your continuing assistance to vacating tenants and incoming businesses to find homes in our neighborhood. The difficulty finding suitable places underscores the need for a keep-while-we-grow policy in Hyde Park.

For Harper Court, we ask that you use your good office to help strike a balance. But it is our position that the Theater buildings should be saved and rehabbed as the University intended and came so close to achieving.


Sincerely,

George W. Rumsey, President and

Gary M. Ossewaarde, Vice President and Development Committee Chair,
Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference