“There are so many stories in this building. Vue53 is an example of how architecture can work to enhance a community through the power of good design.” - Joe Valerio, FAIA - Design Principal
Vue53 is the newest addition to the evolving skyline of Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. A mixed-use development with 267 units and 28,000 square feet of retail space, Vue53 subscribes to a new formula that emphasizes community space over personal space. Although home to the University of Chicago, Hyde Park has suffered from the decline of 53rd Street, which began 50 years ago. As part of a ten-year plan to strengthen connections to the neighborhood and boost the economy, the university partnered with the city to resurrect the 53rd Street dining/ shopping/retail corridor. The university selected the team of Avison Young, Peak Campus Development, and financial partner Blue Vista Capital Management to develop, finance, and manage Vue53.
Vue53 visually anchors two important urban spaces, 53rd Street and Nichols Park. 53rd Street is defined by an eclectic mix of three- to four-story buildings, and its retail district is anchored by high-rises at each end: Vue53 to the west and the 1920s-era Hyde Park Bank Building and university’s new office tower to the east. Vue 53 also anchors the north end of the 10-acre Nichols Park, which extends south to the university campus at 55th. Vue53’s architecture carefully responds to this context. The mass of the building is divided into two towers. The slender south tower anchors the street edge. Seen from the park, this tower reads as a highly perforated wall; voids in the elevation minimize the structure’s perceived mass. The north tower is set 100 feet back from the street to minimize its mass. Parking occupies the two floors above the retail level, completely screened from the street by apartments and amenity spaces.
Vue53’s blue glass-clad exterior and rectilinear concrete frame symbolize the rebirth of 53rd street as a destination. In addition to studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments, Vue53 offers amenities such as a game room, an exercise room, and outdoor sun decks, including a large communal roof deck that provides sweeping views of the city’s South and West Sides. Although open to all, Vue53 is tailored to appeal to design-conscious graduate students and young faculty. It has exposed concrete interiors, and there are four large twostory collaborative spaces for project-based learning, an emphasis at the university. To maintain affordability, units are 800 square feet or less.
Fifteen percent of the units are dedicated to affordable housing, reinforcing the neighborhood’s already diverse community. Affordable units are scattered throughout the building and are identical to the market-rate units. The city and university organized workshops where the design team listened to the neighbors. A lack of retail “diversity” was a repeated concern: “Why can’t I buy a pair of socks in Hyde Park?” The design of the retail space attracted Target, which occupies two-thirds of the ground-floor commercial space.
Working beyond the architecture, Valerio Dewalt Train Associates collaborated closely with its in-house design studio, Media Objectives (M-O), to create experiential graphics and Searl Lamaster Howe Architects to design the interiors and furniture for both public areas and the apartments. This reflected another trend: when Millennials move in, all they bring is their clothes and their media.