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University of Chicago Buys the New Harper Court Property

Deborah Bayliss | 11/26/2013, 4:36 p.m.
Just days after a ribbon cutting event celebrating the opening of the new Harper Court shopping complex in the Hyde ...
Harper Court Rendering, 5235 S. Harper Court. Image courtesy of University of Chicago.

Just days after a ribbon cutting event celebrating the opening of the new Harper Court shopping complex in the Hyde Park neighborhood on Nov. 8, the University of Chicago (U of C) purchased Harper Court from its developers, Harper Court Partners, LLC.

According to U of C, the contract with the developer included an option for the University to acquire property that is part of Phase I of the project. The deal, which includes the 150,000-square-foot office tower, more than 75,000 square feet of retail and two parking garages, as well as rights to land for Phase II, closed Nov. 14.

“Calmetta Coleman, of U of C spokesperson, explained saying, “When the university learned that Harper Development intended to sell the site, it opted to buy it so that by taking ownership, the university had a way to guide future planning for the site in terms of who it selects to purchase the site. We’ll be looking for a buyer with a long-term interest in Harper Court”

From the project’s beginning, the University has worked with the developer to ensure that Harper Court includes a mix of national, Chicago-based and locally owned businesses on the 53rd Street corridor, and that those businesses include South Side residents in their hiring plans.

Additionally, more than 28 percent of the qualified project costs were engaged with minority- and women-owned businesses, according to information provided by the university.

The new Hyatt Place Hotel adjacent to Harper Court is not part of the transaction.

James Hennessy, Associate Vice President for Commercial Real Estate Operations for the University, said “The University does not intend to own the property permanently, and will begin a search for the most appropriate owner for the long term. The University will pay the same property taxes that any private owner would, contributing money back into the 53rd Street TIF district.”

Harper Court officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 8, after a multi-year project designed to create a new hub for consumer amenities and economic opportunities in Hyde Park.

The project grew out of community visioning workshops held in 2008, which prompted the University of Chicago and the City of Chicago to contribute land and other resources toward the redevelopment. The University and the city selected Harper Court Partners as the private developers.

The contract with the developer included an option for the University to acquire property that is part of Phase I of the project. The deal, which includes the 150,000-square-foot office tower, more than 75,000 square feet of retail and two parking garages, as well as rights to land for Phase II, closed Nov. 14.

“Harper Court has already had a powerful catalytic effect on the neighborhood, spurring the creation of new jobs and new businesses along the 53rd Street corridor. It will continue to be an important component of broader efforts to make 53rd Street a vibrant neighborhood center, and the University is committed to ensuring that it remains a long-term asset to Hyde Park,” Hennessy said.