53rd Street Update

A survey asks if people would ride a free trolley on 53rd Street; a restaurant/music venue, Promontory, and a children’s store, The Red Balloon, have recently opened in the area.

By Emma Broder

A free trolley could roll down  E. 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue if locals express interest in more public transportation. A recent traffic study showing the public transportation use drops in this stretch of Hyde Park generated the idea for the trolley, which would run east along 53rd Street from Woodlawn to Lake Park Avenue, south on Lake Park to 55th Street, and east again, to Hyde Park Boulevard.

“The goal is to enhance transportation options to support our local businesses,” the commissioners of the 61st Special Service Area wrote in a web announcement that appeared on the site of Vice Chair of the 2014-15 Commissioners of the Special Service Area George Rumsey. To gauge interest the commissioners are sponsoring a survey to decide to fund the trolley.

Tax increment financing (TIF) is used in the Special Service Area to sponsor redevelopment projects such as the free trolley. TIF districts use projected future gains in the tax base of an area to create the conditions necessary for such changes to take place.

The survey poses questions, the first of which is, “How likely are you to ride a free trolley through the business district of Hyde Park?” Other questions request details about times of day and days of the week riders would like to see the trolley, and how long people would be willing to wait.

Survey results will be announced in a meeting in the conference room of the Hyde Park Hyatt on 53rd and Harper on September 24 at 7 p.m.


Two new institutions, The Red Balloon and Promontory, opened on 53rd Street in the last three weeks.

The Red Balloon, a pop-up children’s store occupying the same storefront as Sir & Madame, “touched down” on August 1. It sells children’s clothing and accessories, including its popular “initial tees” ($35), and also has locations in Bucktown and Andersonville.

Promontory, a restaurant and music venue owned by the team behind Logan Square eatery Longman & Eagle and Ukrainian Village bar and music venue the Empty Bottle, opened two days ahead of schedule on July 21.

“A lot of the projects we find ourselves interested in have been in areas that were not always the most popular,” Finkelman told the Sun-Times. According to the article, Finkelman “was approached by the university around two years ago to add his restaurant and entertainment expertise to the Harper Court resurrection project.”

The large venue, located directly behind Akira in a former Borders bookstore on 53rd Street, has both outdoor and indoor seating areas, bar seating, and a performance space that holds 300 seated or 500 standing people. Promontory has fifteen concerts booked from August all the way through the middle of November. The first concert will take place August 16th and will feature the South Side Big Band.

Prices from the restaurant’s hearth-to-table menu (there is literally a hearth in the middle of the dining room) are as follows: Snacks $5-10; desserts $9; cocktails $10; “cold” small plates around $15; entrées from the “fast” and “embers” section of the menu around $20; and “historic” dishes $25.

A full restaurant review will be published shortly on the Maroon website.