The theater was built as a
1,200-seat vaudeville house and was converted to a movie theater in 1935.
Its entrance was changed from 53rd Street to Harper Avenue in the 1930s,
prompting the addition of the blue tile entry. The storefronts and offices
of the commercial building are mostly original, but the theater underwent a
renovation in the 1960s that altered the interior. The theater and two-story
commercial facades are of a distinctive red brick with white terra cotta
Current Condition and/or Status: The commercial and theater buildings
have been owned by the University of Chicago (U of C) since 2002. In 2006, U
of C contracted with Baum Realty and Brinshore Development to redevelop the
site. Instead of demolishing the buildings, Baum and Brinshore created a
preservation plan that would have adaptively reused the Harper Theater
buildings as a mixed-use retail/restaurant/office complex taking advantage
of historic tax credits. However, the U of C terminated the project. The
commercial and theater buildings now stand vacant.
Potential Threat: U of C owns the adjoining properties, which could
result in a large-scale demolition to create a single redevelopment site,
which is located in the 53rd Street Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District.
What You Can Do: Contact 4th Ward Alderman Toni Preckwinkle and urge
her to work with U of C officials to redevelop the block reusing these
distinctive historic buildings.
Alderman Toni Preckwinkle,
Office of the 4th Ward, 4659 S. Cottage Grove
Avenue, Suite 203, Chicago, IL
60653 (773-536-8103) (773-536-7296 fax)
Photos: 1-3 Landmarks Illinois, 4,5 Courtesy Hyde Park Historical Society