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Harper Court, Hyde Park and the Essence of Community

Posted By Matt Baker On June 25, 2014 @ 9:17 am | No Comments

By Matt Baker

HC6In its previous incarnation, Harper Court [1] was a deteriorating remnant of past urban renewal. Evoking a 1960s strip mall vogue, two levels of retail were split off the plaza, with stairs leading down to shops below grade and another set of stairs going up to the second level. Trends in retail have changed, however, and it was proving difficult to retain tenants.

A revitalized Harper Court, something that could anchor Hyde Park’s 53rd Street corridor [2], was envisioned back in 2000. Toni Preckwinkle, then the neighborhood’s alderman, pushed through a TIF district in 2001 to help foster a cohesive and vibrant mixed-use district. She also launched a series of workshops to engage residents and to find out what changes they would like to see realized.

It would be more than a decade before the project wrapped up, but the new Harper Court is now open and lively. Sophie Bidek, a Partner with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture [3] (HPA) described walking around the site one weekend after some of the retail amenities had opened for business. Residents were using the public space, including one man playing a harmonica. “I got teary eyed,” she said. “It was a long time coming, but it actually worked.”

HC7HPA was the architect of record for the main structure and conducted master planning for the roughly three-acre site. The development team was Harper Court Partners, a combined effort of JFJ Development Company [4] and Vermilion Development [5]. The project includes a 150,000 SF office tower occupied by the University of Chicago [6]. The tower sits atop a three-story base of retail and parking; a separate parking garage is available below ground. A new 131-room Hyatt Place [7] is also on the property, developed separately by SMART Hotels [8].

But the key to Harper Court’s success is ultimately that public space, the dominion of residents, shoppers, university students and harmonica players. The original plaza was an active community space, often hosting farmers markets and chess tournaments. A usable, vibrant plaza was the guiding factor to the entire design, according to Bidek. “We wanted to retain that sense of place and public open space that was in the existing Harper Court,” she said.

A new private drive, aptly named Harper Court, wends through the property. Harper Court the street permits auto and pedestrian traffic to access Harper Court the development. In total, there is about 40,000 SF of wide sidewalks and private drive that can be closed off to vehicular traffic to create a unified plaza for farmers markets, festivals and other uses such as outdoor restaurant seating.

HC5The entire first floor is glass, ensuring that there are no dead spaces along Lake Park Avenue, 53rd Street or Harper Court. HPA worked with the retail tenants on their layout so that the “back of house” was on the internal end of the space and entrances faced the street. “It’s very easy, with 75,000 square feet of retail, to have it be internally-based like a shopping mall,” said Bidek. “We wanted to make sure we were giving back to the neighborhood, so we have everything facing externally.”

The building concept that they initially drew up was quite different than the end result because of feedback from the city, the residents and the university. “This is one example where having a lot of cooks in the kitchen really was helpful,” Bidek said.

The architects received community input that the building design should be in accord with the surrounding neighborhood. This led to a structural appearance driven by neighborhood comments and inspired in part by a neighborhood landmark across the street, the historic Hyde Park Bank Building.

“Because our tower was going to serve as a gateway opposite Hyde Park bank, we didn’t want to ignore it,” said Bidek. “We didn’t want it to look like our building dropped out of space.” The tower portion of the building rests on a three-story plinth and the second floor is clad in GFRC panels colored to match the limestone of the bank building façade. These panels are broken up by bands of maroon and amber polycarbonate to give a subtle hint of color during the day; at night, they glow from light inside the garage.

HC4“That’s my favorite piece of the project and it was born out of a lot of conversations with the community about fitting into the character of the neighborhood,” Bidek said. “They are a progressive neighborhood and they are eclectic, educated people.”

Walkability and access to transit are important in any urban setting. Harper Court is a mile and a half from the closest Green Line stop and a Metra station is right across the street. The university also worked with the CTA to route more buses past the site in a bid to unite the campus and improve mobility. There are also five Divvy [9] stations within half a mile of the property. Building occupants can take advantage of bike storage and showers to decrease car travel even further.

Virtually every brand of LEED available was achieved on this project. The main building is LEED-C+S Gold while the university’s offices are LEED-CI Platinum. The new Hyatt Place on the site is targeting LEED-NC Silver and the project as a whole was designated LEED-ND Gold.

HC3“Because we decided that we wanted to achieve LEED Gold early on, we didn’t have to jump through a lot of hoops to make it work,” said Bidek. “We made smart decisions early on that didn’t make it cost prohibitive to do any of the sustainable features.”

The robust building envelope is comprised of high-efficiency windows that give ample daylighting—as well as great views of the skyline and lake—to each floorplate. But the curtain wall also has highly insulated panels at the floor and ceiling of each story, minimizing solar heat gain. The tower is completely covered by a vegetated roof. The top of the base building has a high-reflective surface.

Cannon Design [10] did the buildout for the University of Chicago’s office space. Various university departments had been spread out in different buildings on campus and even in the Loop. “They had a direction for the space and how they wanted it to function,” said Jessica Figenholtz, Senior Associate with Cannon Design and the Project Manager for the University of Chicago’s offices.

HC2“The impetus was bringing everyone together into one centrally located spot,” Figenholtz said, “but also making the design as fluid as possible. As the groups moved and shifted, the design could be agile.” Now, departments including Alumni Relations, IT Services, Commercial Real Estate Operations and Facility Services—totaling around 500 employees—are all under one roof. One floor is dedicated to conference rooms, but not just for the university. This space is also open to the community.

Lighting power density was reduced by 40% from baseline. Controllability for both thermal comfort and lighting was an important component of the design. Task lights at all work stations, as well as in offices reduce the light load. Occupancy sensors within conference rooms and offices further control energy use.

The university has a building standard for all of their new and existing properties so they can reduce their energy loads as much as possible. Cannon worked with the university to select equipment that was Energy Star rated, from HVAC systems to copiers and refrigerators.

A large cistern integrated into the basement collects the rainwater off the building, designed to shed excess stormwater slowly. All landscaping is done with native species and doesn’t require irrigation. Low flow fixtures reduce potable water usage in the space by 36% from the calculated baseline.

HC1“I think our office does a pretty good job when we are selecting materials for any project,” said Figenholtz. “We strive for picking ones with as much recycled content as possible.” The University of Chicago offices are largely outfitted with materials sourced from within 500 miles or less, are made of FSC-certified [11] wood and/or are made from renewable materials, even down to the fabric-wrapped panels on the work stations. Paints, adhesives and sealants are all low-VOC for improved air quality. During the office buildout, around 80% of construction waste was diverted from landfills, the same amount during the full site development.

It took many years and countless neighborhood meetings, but a new Harper Court has finally been realized. The University of Chicago has a beautiful office space and the 53rd Street corridor is revitalized with the resurgence of restaurants and shops. And Hyde Park’s residents have a new place to commune.

Leslie Schwartz [12]
Cannon Design and Chris Barrett Photography [13]

Article printed from Sustainable Chicago: http://www.sustainable-chicago.com

URL to article: http://www.sustainable-chicago.com/2014/06/25/harper-court-hyde-park-and-the-essence-of-community/

URLs in this post:

[1] Harper Court: http://www.harpercourtchicago.com/

[2] Hyde Park’s 53rd Street corridor: http://fiftythird.uchicago.edu/

[3] Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture: http://www.hparchitecture.com/

[4] JFJ Development Company: http://www.jfjdev.com/

[5] Vermilion Development: http://www.vermiliondevelopment.com/

[6] University of Chicago: http://www.uchicago.edu/

[7] Hyatt Place: http://www.chicagosouthuniversity.place.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html

[8] SMART Hotels: http://www.smarthotelsgroup.com/

[9] Divvy: https://www.divvybikes.com/

[10] Cannon Design: http://www.cannondesign.com/

[11] FSC-certified: https://us.fsc.org/

[12] Leslie Schwartz: http://www.leslieschwartzphotography.com/

[13] Chris Barrett Photography: http://christopherbarrett.net/

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