In its previous incarnation, Harper Court 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, 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.