University purchases former Borders building on 53rd Street

Calmetta Coleman
Director of Communications for Civic EngagementUniversity Communications

The University of Chicago has purchased the former Borders Books & Music building at 1539 E. 53rd St. in Hyde Park. Officials said the University is seeking retail, home goods, entertainment or restaurant tenants for the 25,000-square-foot site.

“As part of the University’s ongoing strategy to strengthen a key corridor within Hyde Park, we are pleased to help find a new use for a building with a prime location,” said James Hennessy, Director of Commercial Real Estate Operations for the University. “We believe this building has great potential for a wide variety of businesses due to its unique features, overall capacity and availability of exclusive parking in the rear.”

Hennessy said the University recently hired a leasing broker, McCaffery Interests, to help cast a wider net in identifying prospects that would be a good fit for Hyde Park.

“This is a marquee retail location at the entrance to the prominent 53rd Street retail corridor, with incredible exposure to a very dynamic Hyde Park consumer,” said Tyler Quast, Director of Property Services and New Business of McCaffery Interests. “We have great expectations for this asset, and look forward to a strong, market-leading retail tenant to open at this location.”

The building has been vacant since Borders closed this past March.

The Borders building purchase is part of a comprehensive effort to create a vibrant, mixed-use corridor along 53rd Street, supported by the University, the City of Chicago and residents.

Earlier this year, the University announced plans to bring Five Guys restaurant to the buildings at 53rd Street and Harper Avenue. The University-owned buildings are being renovated and also will house the new four-screen Harper Theater, a local movie operator that will showcase art, children’s and first-run films when it opens in fall 2012.

The University is also bringing Clarke’s restaurant, a 24-hour diner, to 53rd Street. Scheduled to open in early 2012, Clarke’s will occupy 4,000 square feet in the University-owned building at 1447 E. 53rd St. T-Mobile occupies the remainder of the space.

In conjunction with the City, community and various civic leaders, an ambitious redevelopment project is also under way at Harper. This will include 150,000 square feet of office space leased to the University, underground parking and 80,000 square feet of retail space. Last December, Vermilion Development signed an agreement with Smart Hotels to develop a Hyatt Place hotel in Harper Court. The first phase of Harper Court, which will include an office building, a hotel, retail offerings and parking, is scheduled for completion in 2013.

Officials said these strategic revitalization efforts will support one another in bringing amenities and economic vibrancy to a key location on the South Side.

More new business announcements along 53rd Street are expected in the coming weeks and months.