Chicago’s Hyde Park and Kenwood neighborhoods brim with notable landmarks and attractions. Located within its borders are Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, Promontory Point, the Olmstead designed Jackson Park, the Museum of Science and Industry (originally the Palace of Fine Arts building from the 1893 World’s Columbian Expedition), the DuSable Museum of African American History (technically in Washington Park), the Oriental Institute Museum, the Smart Museum of Art, 57th Street Books and The Seminary Co-op Bookstore, Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap, current and former homes of the Obamas, Muhammad Ali, and nation of Islam leaders Elijah Muhammad and Louis Farrakhan, and of course the University of Chicago.
While known for its impressive Gothic architecture, a number of modern additions are enhancing the beauty of the U of C campus. Helmut Jahn designed the futuristic Joe and Rika Mansueto Library (2011) and the South Campus Chiller Plant (2009), which elegantly showcases utility equipment. The towering Logan Center for the Arts (2012) by New York’s Tod Williams and Billie Tsien Architects is another new landmark that has received nearly unanimous acclaim for its skyscraper meets prairie aesthetic. Coming in 2016, new dormitories will be unveiled by starchitect and Aqua designer Jeanne Gang. The complex will be composed of 5, 11, and 15-story buildings and feature wavy lines reminiscent of Aqua.
Despite all these myriad destinations, aside from U of C’s campus, many Chicagoans and out-of-towners consider Hyde Park to be a somewhat sleepy enclave. There are several recently completed and upcoming projects that are bound to spark new life and update the neighborhood’s reputation.
The renovation of the historic Harper Theater, near the corner of Harper Avenue and 53rd Street, was completed in 2013. The façade of the 1914 building was fully restored and a theater café and the upscale restaurant, A10, now occupy additional ground level spaces.
Also in 2013, the 12 story mixed-use tower Harper Court opened at 53rd and Lake Park Avenue. In addition to offices for the University of Chicago, the complex now houses the whiskey and barbeque spot Porkchop and the vegan restaurant Native Foods Café.
Coming this summer, the much anticipated venue and restaurant The Promontory will also open on 53rd. The project is a collaboration between Bruce Finkelman of Empty Bottle and Longman & Eagle and Craig Golden of Space in Evanston, who are also responsible for the new venue Thalia Hall in Pilsen.
A few blocks west on 53rd Street, the 300,000 square foot Vue53 will be making a substantial presence in the summer of 2015. With its contemporary design and height at 135 feet, the mixed-use building will be quite a departure from its low-rise neighbors on 53rd.
Just two blocks north from Harper Court and The Promontory at 51st and Lake Park Avenue, Jeanne Gang’s City Hyde Park is projecting a 2015 opening. The striking 14-story apartment tower will also include the neighborhood’s first Whole Foods on the ground floor.
With all these developments on and around 53rd Street, Hyde Park’s lure as the architectural, commercial, and entertainment hub of the South Side is on the rise.
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