UChicago brings Akira clothing store to former Borders building on 53rd Street

Calmetta Coleman
Director of Communications for Civic EngagementUniversity Communications

The University of Chicago is bringing Akira, the apparel and shoes retailer, to Hyde Park, to occupy the majority of the first-floor space in the former Borders building at 1539 E. 53rd St.

The new site will become the flagship for the Chicago-based company, which also has stores in Bucktown, on Michigan Avenue and a host of other locations throughout the city and suburbs, company officials said.

“Akira is a premier retailer that will help establish 53rd Street as a hub for shopping, dining and entertainment,” said James Hennessy, Director of Commercial Real Estate Operations for the University. “Akira’s decision to put its flagship in Hyde Park demonstrates the growing vitality of the corridor, and its increasing appeal to a variety of key retailers as we work to further contribute to the economic development of the community.”

Akira’s grand opening is scheduled for this fall and will include the latest fashion trends in women’s clothing, accessories and shoes. Plans also include fashion events and opportunities for customers to share their style with photos posted throughout the store.

“We are delighted to create a unique, flagship store in the heart of Hyde Park to offer women’s clothing and stylish footwear to add to customers’ fashion sense,” said Eric Hsueh, co-owner of Akira. “Our research has shown that many of our current clients drive in from Hyde Park and the surrounding communities to shop with us throughout Chicago. That’s why we believe Akira will bring added value to the neighborhood.”

The new Akira store will be directly across the street from Harper Court, the mixed-use development made possible through a partnership between the University and the City of Chicago. Due to open in 2013, Harper Court will feature a select service hotel, 75,000 square feet of retail space, an office tower and indoor parking. In addition, LA Fitness will occupy 31,500 square feet on the third floor with a 1,360 square foot first-floor lobby.

“Hyde Parkers have been asking for apparel options, therefore Akira is an important and needed addition to the neighborhood's retail mix,” said Alderman Will Burns.

The University also has brought several other new amenities to its properties in the immediate area, including Five Guys restaurant, which opened last fall at 53rd Street and Harper Avenue; and Clarke’s, a 24-hour restaurant opening in the next few weeks at 1447 E. 53rd St.

An independent movie house, The New 400 Theaters, is scheduled to open in late 2012 in the former Harper Theater building, offering a mix of art, children’s and wide–release films.

Last July, the University purchased the former Borders Books & Music building, which was vacated in March 2011 as the national chain closed many stores throughout Chicago.

The purchase of the 25,000-square-foot Borders site is part of a comprehensive effort to attract businesses that would be a good fit for Hyde Park. The University hired leasing broker McCaffery Interests last year to help identify retailers and other prospects that would help establish a mixed-used corridor along 53rd Street.

Akira will occupy 8,000 square feet on the first floor of the building. Additional businesses are in talks for the remaining 5,000 square feet on the first floor and the 12,000 square feet on the second floor.