January 15, 2010

Developer picked for Harper Court, seeks to break ground in 2011

University and City officials selected a firm to develop Harper Court, the University announced yesterday. Vermilion Development, a Chicago-based developer, won the contract after a long deliberation process that began with a request for proposals in November 2008.

“Vermilion offered the best combination of skills, ideas, expertise, and resources to see through the kind of project the city and the University would like to see at Harper Court,” University spokesman Steve Kloehn said.

Kloehn also cited Vermilion’s financial stability in the decision, explaining that a long-term project taking place in a recession necessitates a developer “with the means to see it through.”

As part of Vermilion’s proposal, CEO and President Dave Cocagne described a two phase project: The first, to begin in early 2011, would consist of constructing retail and office space, a hotel, and a parking structure, to end by 2013. Phase two would consist of mixed residential properties, including apartments and a condominium tower, and would be paced according to demand, ending as early as 2015.

Kloehn cautioned, however, that these plans were merely part of Vermilion’s original proposal and are subject to change.

“There are likely to be office spaces, restaurants, and amenities, but beyond that I think the details still need to be worked out as to what else is right for that mix,” Kloehn said. He added that the hotel and residential aspects of the proposal are especially tentative.

Both Kloehn and Cocagne said more definite plans would be presented at the next 53rd street Tax-Increment Financing (TIF) meeting, which is scheduled in March but could be held sometime next month, Kloehn said.

Plans to redevelop Harper Court stretch back to May 2008, when the University first bought the property for $6.5 million. Business at the property had been steadily declining for a decade, and the University hoped to revitalize the 53rd Street shopping center.

Cocagne said his company hopes “to put together a very compelling program that both celebrates Hyde Park and provides new amenities and services for the community.”

“We’re very excited to be undertaking this project,” Cocagne said. “We think it will be very transformative for the commercial core of Hyde Park and will really celebrate all that Hyde Park is.”