The University of Chicago has recently purchased the former site of the Meridian Hyde Park theater on 53rd and Harper, which closed this past spring. We at the Maroon were sad to see the Meridian go, but out of its ashes a new opportunity arises to liven up the Hyde Park commercial establishment. We hope that the University will take advantage of this and rent the space to an establishment that will be popular with both students and other Hyde Park residents.
Many students may not realize that the University owns a substantial portion of the real estate in Hyde Park. The University owns many of the apartment buildings in the neighborhood. In addition, the University owns many other commercial properties, such as the space where the Medici Bakery is located.
The University can use this control for better or worse. Right now 53rd Street presents an interesting paradigm, in that some stores on it clearly cater to students, while others have primarily community members as their customers. The University now has an opportunity to encourage the development of a retail establishment that will appeal both to students and other Hyde Park residents. While we have no qualms with the idea of turning some of the space into offices, we strongly support keeping the ground floor area commercial.
To that end, we suggest that the University solicit opinions from the student body at large about uses for this space. But it is also important for it to consider the needs of the community. To that end, we suggest something like the current proposal of putting a Bed, Bath, and Beyond in the space. A housewares store such as this would be a great asset to students who need furnishing and linens for their dorms or apartments. It would also fill a niche in the Hyde Park commercial establishment that the community, as well as the student, faculty and staff population, could use.