Hyatt Place opening brings new hotel to Hyde Park

A colorful new Hyatt Place hotel opened near the corner of 53rd Street and Harper Avenue on Sept. 17, adding an essential hospitality destination to Hyde Park’s flourishing commercial district.

The new hotel will welcome the Hyde Park and UChicago communities with an open house from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sept. 18, offering tours, food and drinks. Members of the UChicago community also can receive a 15 percent discount off the hotel’s advertised rate, officials said. (Guests should ask about the discount when making a reservation, and a link to the discount offer will be available on the hotel’s website by the end of this week.)

The project represents a key anchor of the Harper Court development, which has seen a spate of openings of new retail outlets recently, with more planned for the coming weeks. Several UChicago administrative offices will begin to move into the Harper Court office tower later this year.

The University, which has been leading broader redevelopment efforts on 53rd Street in partnership with the City of Chicago and the local community, has worked with the hotel’s management to ensure that the openings of new businesses, including Hyatt Place, bring new jobs to the neighborhood along with the new activity.

By hiring from the area, the new Hyatt Place is aiding economic development in Hyde Park, said John Schultzel, vice president of hotel management for the Olympia Companies, which has overseen the hotel development. “More than half of the people who work in this hotel live south of the Loop, in zip codes right around this property,” he said.

The hotel’s arrival is a long-awaited improvement for the neighborhood, said James Hennessy, associate vice president for commercial real estate operations.

“We are working with commercial partners to help fill many needs that consumers and residents in Hyde Park have expressed over the years,” Hennessy said. “Having a high-quality hotel in the heart of our neighborhood’s main commercial area has always been important to this community. It’s gratifying to see that plan come to fruition.”

Completion of the hotel was helped along by the fact that the complex’s underground parking structure was done before ground-level construction began, Schultzel said. In addition to the hotel’s underground parking area, Harper Court recently opened the second floor of its public garage, making about 150 new parking spaces available for public use.

The hotel’s formal name is the Hyatt Place Chicago–South/University Medical Center. Along with the larger Hyde Park/Kenwood community, it expects to serve the UChicago campus, as well as visitors and families of patients at the University of Chicago Medicine. SMART Hotels, a developer of sustainable hotels and mixed use projects at university, college and medical campuses, is the lead developer of the new Hyatt Place.

Businesses around the hotel also will begin to benefit immediately. Hyatt Place plans to make use of La Petit Folie as a bakery-catering vendor, and Kilwins across the street for sweets and treats, said Maurese Nelson, director of sales for the hotel.

“It’s a wonderful thing, and it’s going to make a bridge between the University and hospitality,” Nelson said. “We’re right in their backyard, and we can give them everything they need and have wanted for a number of years.”

With two new restaurants scheduled to open just steps away, the Jamaican Ja’ Grill and BBQ joint PorkChop, guests at Hyatt Place will find a growing array of dining options on 53rd Street. Hyatt Place also will feature a 24-hour dining station next to the front desk, allowing guests to order up while they check in.  

While modern in design and appearance, Hyatt Place takes great care to fit into the surrounding neighborhood, Schultzel said. Legat Architects of Chicago used porcelain touches on the exterior to mirror architectural flourishes on nearby buildings. Inside, rooms are spacious, featuring sectional sofas that pull out into beds, free Wi-Fi and a 42-inch flat-panel HDTV. There’s also an indoor pool with a maximum depth of about 4 feet, an adjacent center and two meeting rooms that open up into a single area of 1,000 square feet.

Hyatt Place stresses its connection to the University throughout the hotel. Every room contains at least three stylized prints fashioned from photos of art and architectural detail found on the Hyde Park campus.

“We’re trying to be a part of the University’s life and heritage here,” Schultzel said. “We feel that we’re at the service not only of Hyde Park, but of the University and the [UChicago] medical center. Without those entities, we wouldn’t be here.”