May 27, 2016

Significant Changes to the Hyde Park Scene

Hyde Park’s history continues to be shaped by the University that sits at its center; this academic year, the University in some ways retreated from its traditional support for the Hyde Park real estate, but other significant University-affiliated projects are in the offing.

In October, the University announced the sale of 21 properties in Hyde Park to the New York–based Pioneer Acquisitions, LLC, an investment company that also owns many buildings in Lincoln Park. The properties included two vacant lots and 19 residential buildings, which housed graduate students, faculty, and staff.

The University had purchased the buildings to ensure a sufficient quantity of stable housing near campus but now believes “the area real estate market is...strong enough to attract a number of potential investors and support a range of residential options,” according to a statement from the News Office.

In January, an agreement was released that defines the relationship between the University and the City of Chicago in anticipation of the University spending $750 million on the Mid–South Side over the next three years.

The non-binding agreement, signed alongside memorandums of understanding (MOUs) between the city and seven other Chicago-area universities, renews a 2011 version of a similar agreement that expired in 2015. The 2011 MOU included provisions for development on  East 53rd Street, including street and park improvements and community planning in the area. The new MOU plans for the continued development of East 53rd Street and for similar initiatives in Washington Park and Woodlawn.

Expansion of educational initiatives, especially through the University’s Urban Education Institute and improvements to Metra in the neighborhood, are also planned. Timika Hoffman-Zoller, president of the Hyde Park–Kenwood Community Conference, expressed satisfaction with the new MOU’s commitments.

“It’s just so good that these new developments aren’t just about things like the [Obama] Library,” she said. “It’s about economic development in the community, people getting jobs, wanting to eat, and go to the parks and enjoy themselves in the communities where they live.”

The Obama Presidential Library is slated to be built in either Washington Park or Jackson Park by 2020 or 2021. The Barack Obama Foundation, which recently moved into Harper Court, is expected to announce the location shortly. Some are excited about the economic opportunities the library will bring to the South Side, while others are concerned about gentrification and the possibility of an increased patrol zone of the University of Chicago Police Department.

If the Library lands in Washington Park, it could bolster the University’s efforts to develop Garfield Boulevard west of Washington Park into an arts hub. More details are forthcoming, but the corridor may include an open-air pavilion and a venue for community theater.

The University has placed closing undergraduate dormitory buildings Broadview, Maclean, and Blackstone on the market. Construction on Campus North topped out at 15 stories in August, and the new dorm, which has been under construction since July 2014, is on schedule for completion in June.

At a College Council meeting in April, Dean of the College John Boyer raised the possibility of adding at least one new dorm south of campus. He has said that his goal is to have at least 70 percent of students living in on-campus housing.

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