A rendering shows what Harper Court could look like. Credit: Provided

HYDE PARK — Harper Court has yet another redesign, as a new set of developers pitched an overhauled vision for the second phase of the massive, long-stalled Hyde Park office and lab building to residents Thursday. 

The project, which has been in the works for the better part of a decade, looks to redevelop a large parcel at the corner of East 52nd Street and South Harper Avenue with an approximately 300,000-square-foot, 13-story lab and office building in the heart of downtown Hyde Park. The second phase is slated to break ground later this year.

Neighbors peppered the new builders with questions, but generally praised the redevelopment’s economics and aesthetics.

Originally presented in 2010, the project has been sent back to the drawing board at least twice after neighbors voiced concerns about building height and other issues. The most recent iteration of the development, aired in 2019 by Maryland-based developer Wexford Science and Technology, would have included a 17-story lab and office building.

Trammell Crow, a Chicago-based developer, has since taken over the primary developer, working in partnership with Beacon Capital, according to Ald. Sophia King (4th).

“The players have changed,” attorney Langdon Neal said. “However, the design and details of the project I think have been greatly improved over the last 2-1/2 years.”

A rendering shows what Harper Court could look like. Credit: Provided

Phase one of the Harper Court project included a now-complete Hyatt Hotel off Harper Avenue and a separate, approximately 150,000-square-foot office building on the parcel’s southeast corner. 

According to developers, the new, 215-foot building is about 50 feet shorter than the Wexford design, and will include nine floors of lab and office space. Parking and a mechanical floor will go above retail establishments on the ground level, serving as a buffer between the retail use and upstairs lab and office space. 

Developers plan to build on top of the former Jolly Pumpkin pizzeria and brewery, and demolish the building that housed the Park 52 restaurant. Other existing retail on Harper and 52nd Street will remain, while green space on the nearly three-acre parcel will include seating and an outdoor amenity venue for STEM-based events, developers said. They also touted additional parking and the elimination of outdoor loading docks.

“We dropped the scale,” project lead Johnny Carlson said. “We’re really excited about what this building will look like when it’s complete.”

With the project adjacent to the University of Chicago campus, developers added that they have received a commitment from the school to occupy about 50,000 square feet of the proposed building. Although other tenants remain uncertain, Carlson envisioned a mix of “early-stage” and Fortune 200 companies.

A prior version of the project saw the University committing to about 20 percent of the building’s office space. 

According to assessors’ records, the property was purchased by a limited liability company called Lake Park Associates, Inc. in 2013. The LLC is managed by Brett Padgett, who serves as the associate vice president of finance at the University of Chicago. 

Carlson said the development group is looking to break ground by late 2022, with an occupancy date set for 2024. 

At the hearing Thursday, developers faced questions from neighbors about how the building would fulfill its minority and women-owned business requirements, as well as how the project would impact noise and traffic in the busy area. 

“Obviously, we already have congestion over there. And that’s without this going on. 52nd Street has become a bit of a nightmare,” resident Joyce Feuer said. “So what are the plans for the surrounding area?”

Carlson said developers are hoping to add 15-minute pickup and dropoff locations if CDOT signs off, and referenced the interior loading docks. He also said the building would have no outdoor mechanical units beyond the rooftop, and that the project would exceed its minority and women-owned business requirements in both construction and tenancy. 

Developers also plan to hire a site-specific community engagement coordinator, Carlson said. 

Troy Ratliff, president of the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce, praised the development from the business perspective. 

“It is great to see that corner being invigorated,” Ratliff said. “I’m also happy to see that the university is committing in the neighborhood.”

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