July 6, 2009

The Co-Op: it still exists!

A rare trip north of 53rd St. last week revealed to me something more adventurous Hyde Parkers probably already know: eighteen months after the U of C paid it $1.2 million to commit suicide, the bloody body parts of the Hyde Park Cooperative Society are still strewn around the South Side:OK, the metaphor is probably a little inappropriate. But still. The 47th St Co-Op branch closed over four years ago, and no new retailer has crawled into its exoskeleton and taken up residence. Presumably Mayor Daley left this off the Olympic tour, since this is a rather depressing indictment of development in Hyde Park/South Kenwood.The Co-Op signed a long-term lease on the property when it opened the 47th St location in 1999, leaving it paying a million dollars per year in rent even after it had closed the store. According to the Cook County Assessor's Office, the 42,000 square-foot building is worth $1.3 million, excluding the cost of the land ($150,000). No owner is listed--but given the economy, it seems doubtful that they'll be able to fill the building any time soon.Here's my suggestion: let's bring together some old-time Hyde Parkers--real Hyde Parkers; the ones who were forced to suffer through the Co-Op's reign of terror--give them some chains and a bulldozer, and let them re-enact Tehran 1979, Moscow 1990, or Baghdad 2003:Plus, the U of C could use this as a way to fundraise from the many alumni with nothing but miserable memories of Hyde Park. My father had to suffer through seven years of shopping at the Co-Op while he was a graduate student, and I'm sure he'd gladly shell out $50 to pull off a letter or two.