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Progress Coming Along On Hyde Park Retail Complex

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53rd Street

53rd Street in Hyde Park. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Progress is coming along on the new development on the site of the Harper Court shopping center in Hyde Park, according to a published report.

Crain’s Chicago Real Estate Daily reported Tuesday that Vermilion Development Inc. has received letters of intent from prospective tenants for about 60 percent of the planned mall space.

If a lender can be lined up by April, construction will get underway later this year, Crain’s reported.

When it’s completed, the planned new development will include about 80,000 square feet of retail space, a 150-room hotel, and 435 parking spaces, according to published reports. It will also include a 12-story, 150,000 square-foot office building that will be used by the University of Chicago, reports said.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported in October that Whole Foods was a likely anchor tenant for the retail space, and a South Side outpost at the Second City comedy club was also under consideration.

The new development at Harper Court will also involve redevelopment of the city-owned 24-hour metered parking lot on Lake Park Avenue just to the east of the shopping center. Later phases of the development will include residential buildings with up to 395 units in total, Roeder reported in October.

The University of Chicago purchased Harper Court for $6.5 million in 2008, in hopes that the purchase would help revitalize the commercial strip in Hyde Park on 53rd Street. Back in 2000, a new Tax Increment Financing District was created for the strip, and $20 million in tax-increment financing subsidies will go toward the project, Roeder reported.

By 2009, most of the tenants in Harper Court had moved out or planned to do so.

Among the displaced tenants was the Creole restaurant Dixie Kitchen & Bait Shop, which closed in May 2009. The restaurant was a favorite of President Barack Obama, who famously recommended it in 2001 on the WTTW-Channel 11 restaurant review show “Check Please.”

Calypso Café, which shares an owner with Dixie Kitchen, remains open in the shopping center, but will have to leave for demolition.

When it opened in 1965, Harper Court was largely made up of arts and music-related businesses. As recently as a few years ago, it had 23 stores, including Dr. Wax Records, Maravilla’s Mexican Restaurant, the Toys Et Cetera toy store, and the Hyde Park Animal Clinic.

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