Groundbreaking event celebrates construction on new Harper Court

Calmetta Coleman
Director of Communications for Civic EngagementUniversity Communications

University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer, Commissioner of Housing and Economic Development Andrew Mooney and 4th Ward Alderman Will Burns joined the Harper Court Partners, LLC team on Nov. 16 to celebrate the groundbreaking for the major new mixed-used development project in Hyde Park.

The groundbreaking marked the official beginning of construction on the 3.3-acre Harper Court site, which will become home to a 150,000-square-foot office tower, a three-story retail building, a hotel, and new retail and dining options along with other amenities. Construction on that phase of the project is scheduled for completion in 2013.

The project is expected to create 800 construction jobs, 350 permanent retail jobs and 150 permanent hospitality jobs. More than 28 percent of the qualified project costs will be engaged with minority- and women-owned businesses.

Guided by a community planning effort initiated several years ago, the redevelopment of the former Harper Court shopping center was led by the University and the City, which both contributed land and other resources to the project. Harper Court Partners was selected as the development team.

Through a series of community workshops in 2008, Hyde Park residents and business owners identified the need for more retail options and amenities along 53rd Street. The University of Chicago and the City of Chicago combined resources to make the redevelopment of Harper Court possible, in addition to making other investments in the 53rd Street corridor.

Harper Court Partners, led by developers Dave Cocagne, Chris Dillion and Jon Zitzman, has teamed with Canyon Johnson Urban Funds (CJUF), which has invested in commercial developments in Chicago and around the nation since 2001. CJUF is a billion-dollar real estate fund comprised of a series of joint ventures between Canyon Capital Realty Advisors and Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Citi Community Capital and MB Financial Bank participated in the project’s financing. The combined investment into the Hyde Park community will total more than $106 million.

Earlier this summer the University of Chicago executed a 150,000-square-foot lease for the Harper Court project’s office tower, anticipated to be among the largest office leases signed in Chicago in 2011. Combined with LA Fitness, one of the project’s retail anchors, the project’s preleasing level is currently 83 percent. 

In March, the developer partnered with SMART Hotels LLC, which will develop a 131-room Hyatt Place Hotel as one part of the multi-phased development.

“We believe the 53rd Street corridor can provide outstanding retail options, entertainment and other amenities for the entire community, including our own faculty, staff and students, enhancing quality of life while creating economic opportunities,” said University spokesman Steve Kloehn. “Shaped by thoughtful input from the community, the Harper Court redevelopment promises to be the centerpiece of that effort.”

To learn more about Harper Court, visit