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Harper Court Development Prompts Moves by Retailers Across Hyde Park

By Sam Cholke | August 1, 2013 10:23am
 Businesses across Hyde Park are choosing to move this summer before new storefronts open at the Harper Court redevelopment this fall.
Harper Court Update
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HYDE PARK — Tenants are preparing to move into the new Harper Court development and the influx of new storefronts has launched a retail reshuffling.

“As new opportunities come up, everyone is repositioning themselves,” said Wallace Goode, director of the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce.

National chains in Hyde Park are opting to relocate to the new centrally-located development at 5235 S. Harper Court Ave., opening up storefronts farther down Hyde Park’s retail corridors.

AT&T will move into the Harper Court development later this summer, opening up its current storefront at 1457 E. 53rd St.

Sales manager Lakela Binion said the new space would be updated aesthetically, but comparable in size and she won’t be hiring any new sales personnel.

AT&T will move in next to Villa, a clothing and shoe store with locations in Grand Boulevard, Washington Park and other neighborhoods in Chicago and cities across the Midwest.

Burma James was outside Villa on Monday writing down the contact information to apply for a job.

James said she hoped all the new businesses in Hyde Park would mean more job opportunities for people with retail experience.

But as new businesses move in, others have moved out of the neighborhood. Ulta, a national cosmetics retailer, is setting up as local Big Girl Makeup closed its 5239 S. Harper Ave. location.

“The broker who filled the space [at the Harper Court redevelopment] didn’t go with as many Hyde Park businesses as we would like,” Goode said, responding to national chains coming in to compete with locals on 53rd Street. “The question is the value in the swap.”

Goode also noted that locally-owned Z Berry at 1368 E. 53rd St. will face competition for its frozen yogurt when Red Mango moves into the Harper Court complex.

“It’s a legitimate concern. However, it goes back to the question of what the market will bear,” Goode said.

Rents have risen steadily along 53rd Street as it has become more attractive to national retailers, but the large number of storefront shifts this summer has opened up locations along Hyde Park’s other retail strips, which Goode and retailers continue to see as more affordable.

The recent move of the Nile Restaurant closer to the north end of the University of Chicago campus where a new dorm is planned made its old location available at 1611 E. 55th St.

“That’s a good move for them and it opens up a good spot on 55th Street,” Goode said, adding that the Nile Restaurant is a better use of the space at 1162 E. 55th St. than the former dialysis center. “The chamber supports all these shifts because what it’s done is open up new opportunities.”

Goode said he was watching and talking to local business owners to see who would choose the more expensive locations, like the recently vacated Hyde Park Tailor Shop at 1379 E. 53rd St., and who will fill the cheaper locations, like the former Fair Trader location at 1623 E. 55th St.

“The fact is, spaces do not stay vacant for long in Hyde Park,” Goode said.