HYDE PARK — The City Hyde Park development got neighborhood approval for an $11.3 million property tax subsidy Wednesday night and developers said they intended to pursue funding from a long dormant state program meant to improve blighted areas.
The 53rd Street Tax Increment Financing District Advisory Council voted unanimously to approve a subsidy to help fill a $22 million gap in the $114 million project, which promises to bring a Whole Foods and 182 new rental apartments to Hyde Park.
“There hasn’t been a new-construction apartment building in Hyde Park in 20 years,” said Peter Cassel, director of community development at the Silliman Group.
New Jersey-based Silliman has contracted award-winning architect Jeanne Gang to design a new building where a closed and crumbling grocery store currently stands at the southwest corner of South Lake Park Avenue and East Hyde Park Boulevard.
The firm owns more than 70 buildings in Hyde Park and is more commonly recognized by its apartment-leasing arm MAC Properties. Despite these sizable holdings, Silliman has struggled to get its first new-construction project off the ground.
To fill the funding gap, Cassel said it is proposing expanding and re-engergizing a South Side Empowerment Zone on 47th Street. The program provides state tax incentives for developments in blighted areas.
Cassel said Silliman will pursue an exemption on sales taxes for construction materials, “which will literally give us millions of dollars.”
The city and state must both sign off on expanding the Empowerment Zone, which is often associated with failed development ventures along East 47th Street.
The program provided funds to support the construction of a shopping center at East 47th Street and South Lake Park Avenue. The shopping center has struggled to retain an anchor tenant. The Hyde Park Co-Op grocery store closed in 1999 and the shopping center stood vacant until Michael’s Fresh Market made a go at the spot in 2010, only to file for bankruptcy in less than two years.
The Empowerment Zone also helped fund the Muntu Dance Theater’s abandoned project at 1100 E. 47th Street and the embattled Harold Washington Cultural Center, a pet project of former Ald. Dorothy Tillman (3rd).
Traffic issues have also snarled the City Hyde Park project.
Cassel said it is pursuing a traffic signal mid-block on South Lake Park Avenue between East Hyde Park Boulevard and East 52nd Street to ease entry and exit from the development.
New traffic signals have also been proposed to ease traffic entering and exiting from the Harper Court project south on South Lake Park Avenue at East 53rd Street, and if all are approved, could mean four traffic signals on South Lake Park Avenue in the two blocks from East Hyde Park Boulevard to East 53rd Street.
The traffic problems that are expected to arise from the two massive developments on South Lake Park Avenue are currently under review by the Chicago Department of Transportation.