Zoning change could be retail boon for 53rd Street

Alderman Burns and University administration favor a 53rd Street zoning change that would diversity Hyde Park businesses.

By Celia Bever

The planned rezoning of the commercial building that formerly housed Borders could pave the way for a tavern or an entertainment venue.

The 25,000-square-foot building, located at East 53rd Street and South Lake Park Avenue, is currently in a B1 zone, designated for small, storefront retailers. Developers want to change the building to B3 zoning, opening up the possibility for a major shopping center.

“This is one little island of B1 that really should be B3,” Danielle Meltzer Cassel, an attorney hired by the University to handle the legal aspect of the rezoning, said. “B3 is the type of zoning district you should have on main corridors.”

Local politicians are cheerleading the effort. Fourth ward alderman Will Burns, who introduced the rezoning ordinance to the City Council, said the “additional flexibility…could add to the vibrancy of 53rd Street.”

Still, if businesses are waiting in the wings for the rezoning to pass, it hasn’t been made public yet.

“The University is working with other possible tenants and will announce any new tenants after arrangements are final,” University spokesperson Calmetta Coleman said in an e-mail.

Burns hosted a public meeting April 16 at the King Community Service Center, on East 43rd Street and South Cottage Grove Avenue, about the possible change. Another meeting is scheduled for May 14.

The City Council will need to approve the rezoning in a public hearing, which Cassel said should be finished by June at the latest. Council members may not know the names of the new tenants before they vote, Burns said.

Part of the ground floor of the building is already leased out to the apparel and shoe retailer Akira, which is expected to open in the fall. The rezoning will not affect the store’s opening.