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University of Chicago unveils plan for Polsky Center high-rise expansion

The Hyde Park school will collaborate with University of Illinois on the South Side project

Illustration by Wexford Science and Technology

“Innovation” seemed to be the top buzzword in Chicago yesterday. Right on the heels of an announcement calling for a $1.2 billion private/public research facility at the massive Near South Side development known as The 78, the University of Illinois and the University of Chicago took the wraps off a partnership to expand the Polsky Center business incubator at Hyde Park’s Harper Court.

The plan would include at least 280,000 square feet of office and laboratory space to be housed within a glassy vertical expansion slated to rise atop an existing four-story parking structure at the corner of 53rd Street and S. Lake Park Avenue. First publicly discussed in June, the addition will be developed by Baltimore-based Wexford Science and Development.

The 16-story Polsky Center expansion is planned for the four-story parking structure pictured center.
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The next phase of the U of I/U of C partnership is expected to bring about 100 faculty, researchers, and students from Urbana-Champaign to collaborate with Chicago colleagues, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders. The goal will be to develop and commercialize new technology and spin-off new startup companies.

The expanded Polsky Center complex will be the first major new project to join the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN) that was announced this week by Governor Bruce Rauner. Construction on the new Harper Court tower is expected to begin some time next year.

When initially revealed back in 2010, the original Harper Court redevelopment plan envisioned a 44-story condominium tower to occupy this space. Phase one of Harper Court opened in 2013 and includes retail space, restaurants, a Hyatt Place hotel, and an office tower serving over 500 University of Chicago employees.