In the coming months, 53rd Street is set to undergo commercial changes, as Borders Books and Music and McDonald's plan to open new locations.
Alderman Toni Preckwinkle said the initiative to bring Borders to Hyde Park was largely the result of the efforts of the Hyde Park Bank, which has leased the land to the Ann Arbor-based Borders.
"[Hyde Park Bank president] Tim Goodsell had several prospective tenants for their land on 53rd Street," she said. "They were looking for opportunities to expand the bank's role in commercial life of the community and were marketing the space for commercial development."
Goodsell was not available for comment.
Preckwinkle added that she had a number of meetings with the bank, Borders, and the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce concerning the matter.
Chamber president Debra Mahoney was very supportive of the opening. After meeting with owners of other businesses in the area, she "thought it would be a good addition to 53rd Street and would attract business to other stores in the area."
Mahoney acknowledged the concerns of independent bookstores, but said she thought that the addition of Borders would end up being good for their business as well.
"Traditionally what Borders has done in other communities such as Beverly is to cross-refer their customers to other bookstores in the area," she said.
Borders' spokeswoman Emily Swan said Borders had looked at many criteria before choosing the site, including "demographics, availability of parking, and population."
Preckwinkle mentioned that her main concern was with the potential architectural effect the Borders building could have on the rest of the 53rd Street businesses.
"In terms of scale and design we are very pleased with the building Borders plans to construct," Preckwinkle said.
Mahoney described Borders as being a traditional "good neighbor" in other communities.
"They are financially supportive in other communities," she said. "They have indicated we can count on their support for community events such as street cleaning."
Henry Webber, the University's vice president for community affairs, also echoed these sentiments.
"Most people in Hyde Park believe that it is a terrific addition for 53rd," Webber said. "It has a large use; hundreds if not thousands of people [will] use it every day, and it [will offer] things that are currently unavailable, a lovely café, and various periodicals included."
He also said although many book retailers are concerned that Borders will "constitute a significant threat," many potential competitors are in vastly different fields.
"Seminary [Co-op] sells mostly academic [books], while many of the bookstores along 57th are used-book stores, that wouldn't really be affected by Borders's move-in," Webber said.
He said the University was not involved in the decision-making, but lent its support to the proposal.
"The long-term goal of the University has been to support revitalization of 53rd Street," Webber added. "It's hard to think of a tenant that would do more for that than a new bookstore."
McDonald's also plans to move from its existing 53rd Street location to the former site of the Hyde Park Community Shell, 5200 South Lake Park Avenue .
"They wanted a drive-through and I told them they couldn't have one at the existing location," Preckwinkle said. "They'll now be on a street that is more appropriate for that kind of fast-food outlet."
Preckwinkle said the McDonald's proposal had been presented at a TIF advisory council meeting and that it was "well-received."