UChicago staff members complete move into Harper Court offices

Steve Koppes
Associate News DirectorUniversity Communications

As the new year begins, about 550 UChicago employees are getting settled in their new office space, part of the 12-story, green glass high-rise tower at Hyde Park’s Harper Court. While boxes are still being unpacked for the latest arrivals, other UChicago employees have been in the space for weeks.

Harper Court, located at East 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue, is part of a mixed-use development project that includes the office tower, a new Hyatt Place hotel and numerous amenities including restaurants, retail stores and parking. The development officially opened Nov. 8 and already is showing strong signs of success.

“The office tower is fully occupied and the entire project is over 90 percent leased,” said James Hennessy, associate vice president for commercial real estate operations for the University.

Harper Court, a joint project by the University, the city of Chicago, local officials and the community, is a key element of the overall development of the 53rd Street commercial corridor. Hennessy said the on-schedule construction of Harper Court contributed to the Hyde Park economy during a difficult economic period. Now that it is complete, the complex is an important anchor that will help businesses along the street.

“This new development brings employees in scattered locations together and also brings 550 people to visit the restaurants and retailers to generate demand for the local businesses along the 53rd Street corridor,” Hennessy said.

“The moves have been great,” said Desiree DiLucente, senior project manager with Facilities Services, one of the departments that have moved most of their administrative employees to the new office tower. DiLucente has been part of the team, making sure employees’ workspace is set up properly and fully operational from the first day they arrive at the new space.  

In addition to Facilities Services, the offices with staff members at Harper Court include IT Services, the Commercial Real Estate Office, and Alumni Relations and Development, which has moved most of its central operations to the building. The University occupies floors four through 12 of the complex. It features a rooftop garden on the south and west sides of the 11th floor, although the current winter weather will limit its use.  

For ARD, the new office space provides the opportunity to bring their employees together after they were spread out in different locations in downtown Chicago and on the main UChicago campus.

“We’re excited to be part of this larger development that the University has initiated,” said Suzanne Baker, assistant vice president for operations for ARD. “It’s a wonderful space, and being a part of the University community is important to our work.”

The building was designed to bring outside light into the work area. It offers views of Lake Michigan and the city skyline from many vantage points. For example, the Facilities Services call center, previously located in the basement of the Young Memorial building, now has striking views of the city skyline from its new location on the 10th floor.

“Our new work space is much brighter and cleaner and provides plenty of room for our work stations,” said Meachie Holman, a 22-year employee of UChicago. “We used to have to go up three floors to use the microwave and refrigerator in the kitchen at the Young Building, so it’s nice to have a kitchen/pantry on our floor.”

“This building is made for flexibility and adaptability of the work spaces,” noted DiLucente. “And of course, it also has the newest technologies and capabilities.” DiLucente said the building will receive a silver certification from LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The LEED designation is intended to show that the building is energy-efficient and has water conservation measures and excellent indoor environmental quality, among other criteria.

More businesses at Harper Court are scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2014, including locally owned restaurants Porkchop and Ja’Grill; Native Foods, a restaurant with vegan and vegetarian dishes; and Red Mango Yogurt and smoothie shop. 

How to Get There

A new 53rd Street Shuttle operates between the new office tower and the main University campus with stops along the way at Edward H. Levi Hall, Campus South, the Ellis Street Garage, Campus East at Earl Shapiro Hall (Laboratory Schools), and 53rd Street and Woodlawn Avenue. The shuttle schedule can be found at uchicago.transloc.com. Employees and visitors also can rent or borrow bicycles from the 53rd Street Bicycle Center at 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue.

Where to Park

Visitors driving to the office tower or one of the businesses can park in the second-floor garage, accessible from Lake Park Avenue. Parking rates are $2 for up to 30 minutes, $4 for 30 minutes to 2 hours, $10 for 2–4 hours, $12 for 4–6 hours, $15 for 6–12 hours, and $32 for 12–24 hours. LA Fitness, one of the new businesses in the development, provides two hours of free parking for its members, and the cosmetics store Ulta offers one hour of free parking with validation.

For more information about the 53rd Street redevelopment, please visit fiftythird.uchicago.edu.