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University of Chicago Plans to Privatize Streets for New Dorm

By Sam Cholke | August 22, 2013 7:09am
 Designs for a new dorm on the University of Chicago campus
New Dorm Renderings
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HYDE PARK — The University of Chicago plans to privatize Greenwood Avenue as part of its plan for a new dormitory.

At a community meeting at the Booth School of Business on Wednesday, university planners revealed their aim to privatize the 5500 block of South Greenwood Avenue adjoining the Jeanne Gang-designed dormitory complex.

“The central idea of this site is to open it up so it connects more to the main campus,” said project manager Eric Eichler. “We’ll turn Greenwood from 55th to 56th streets into a private driveway and greenspace.”

Community members expressed concerns that the change would tie up traffic and reduce the already tight parking around campus.

William Towns, associate vice president for neighborhood initiatives at the university, said parking and traffic studies were underway, but the effects were expected to be minimal.

“All of our observed traffic on Greenwood currently is university employees,” Towns said, adding that parking will be freed up in the neighboring garage on Ellis Avenue as offices are shifted up to the university’s new office tower on 53rd Street.

Residents also were concerned that a dorm housing 800 students would flood the western edge of Hyde Park with lots of new cars.

“[First-year] students are not allowed to have cars on campus,” Towns said, adding that more than half of the new dorm’s residents will be incoming freshman.

Concerned neighbors were told that the new dorm would add just 100 beds to the university’s housing system. The dorm is significantly larger than the current Pierce Tower, and also would replace rooms in Breckinridge House, 1442 E. 59th St., and the New Graduate Residence Hall, 1307 E. 60th St., that will be phased out.

Dorm construction will start next July and is expected to be completed in May 2016, so students can move in by September.

Demolition of Pierce Tower already has begun and will continue through December.

Greenwood Avenue would be closed in June 2015 if approved by the Chicago Department of Transportation and the City Council.

The U. of C. last year successfully lobbied to close the 1100 block of East 58th Street to expand the main quad to the business school.