Five Guys burger joint beefs up 53rd Street redevelopment

Five Guys will open its doors on East 53rd Street and South Harper Avenue by the end of this year.

By Crystal Tsoi

Five Guys, the president-approved national burger chain with a purported 250,000 ways of ordering a burger, will open its doors on East 53rd Street and South Harper Avenue by the end of this year.

The burger joint is the first tenant to announce plans to move into the University-owned building, which will be renovated and converted into a mixed-use space. The building has been vacant since the University bought it seven years ago, riling local residents who cited empty buildings as magnets for crime.

The development will convert the office buildings and movie theater into a mixed-use development situated across the street from the Harper Court redevelopment, which aims for its first stage to be completed in 2013. The Harper Court redevelopment, funded by the city’s Tax-Incremented Financing program and University funds, aims to make Harper Court a destination restaurant and retail location for both neighborhood residents and visitors.

“As Hyde Park revitalizes and business occurs, I think people will see this as a great place to serve the community and look at Hyde Park as a great destination for them,” University spokesperson Wendy Parks said.

But Hyde Park residents raised concerns over the architectural integrity of the building before the Five Guys announcement at a January 10 TIF meeting on 53rd Street.

Parks said the University is working to maintain the buildings in order to ensure that the area will be developed with community approval. “[The U of C] has taken action to save these buildings” and is “committed to maintaining the integrity of these buildings,” she said.

According to Parks, OKW Architects of Chicago, the lead architect on the renovation of the building, has tailored the project to input given by community members at TIF meetings.

Work on the office and theater buildings includes a complete renovation of the interior as well as façade work that will focus on drawing tenants to the retail spaces and the “overall character of the buildings,” Parks said.

In addition, work will be done on the windows of the building as well as additional places for signs of retailers. Specifically for Five Guys, developers are hoping to integrate an outdoor eating area with “attractive awnings.”

“People have been tweeting about [the announcement],” Parks said. “Lab students are excited about it, especially students who go off-campus. It has been great news for the community.”