HYDE PARK — Every day, Sharon Gold walks her two small dogs through Hyde Park Village and the surrounding neighborhood.
She and her husband have lived in their Oregon Avenue town home for 15 years, and Gold loves taking leisurely walks amid the atmosphere of the open-air shopping center.
Since the latest sale of Hyde Park Village was announced last month, shoppers, store owners and real estate agents have weighed in on what the purchase could mean for the struggling shopping center.
For Gold and some other residents of the 36 condominiums and town homes in Old Hyde Park Village, the sale has made them optimistic about the future of their community, which has changed hands more than once through the years.
“I think change is always good,” Gold said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what they do.”
Boston-based WS Development bought Hyde Park Village for $45 million, and has vowed to breathe new life into it by recruiting more independent shops and restaurants.
The sale, which some experts say bodes well for the state of the area’s real estate market, has led to some to speculate that the new owners also will add more residences to the complex.
People who live in the Village are “hopeful” about what changes the sale could bring, said Deborah Rogers, president of the Old Hyde Park Village Residential Condominium Association. But talk is cheap, she said, and many current residents were there the last two or three times the Village was sold.
“I think change is wonderful if they actually do what they say they’re going to do,” she said. “It’s not the first time we’ve had great ambitions come our way.”
When Rogers bought her home 12 years ago, she, like many other residents of the Village, was attracted to the area’s unique character, she said. She works from home, so she wanted to live somewhere she could be part of a community.
“It’s a lovely place to live,” Rogers said.
And although the center’s new owners have said they have no immediate plans to add residential units to the Village, she wouldn’t mind if they did, Rogers said.
Gold said she always has favored adding more condos to the Village, as long as the developers also add parking spaces and improve some of the surrounding infrastructure.
“I have no problem, as long as they do it right,” she said.
Anita Fernandez, a 16-year resident of Hyde Park Village, said she wants the new owners to complete renovations of the property before they consider adding more shops and residences.
She also said she would like the owners to add a deli or convenience store where residents of the Village could shop.
“Just as long as I have my area overlooking the fountain, I’m good here,” Fernandez said about the changes.
Hyde Park Village was built in 1985, but some parts of the complex along South Dakota Avenue date to 1924. The center covers seven city blocks, with 262,000 square feet of internal space and about 1,000 parking spaces in two garages.
The Village previously had high-end retailers such as Talbots, Ann Taylor, Jacobson’s and Williams-Sonoma. But through the years the shopping area has struggled as rivals like Westshore Plaza grew, and International Plaza opened in 2001.
During the real estate boom, mall owners planned a multi-story condo tower on a wedge along Snow Avenue. The economic downturn and other factors doomed that project, and several long-term retail tenants moved out. An entire block of shops along the north side of Snow Avenue now stand empty – an effect of the mall owner’s plan to take down the structure for a housing tower.
The new owners say they want to meet with residents and neighbors of Hyde Park Village as they craft their plans to renovate the center and recruit new businesses
Rogers thinks the neighborhood around Hyde Park Village can support the businesses there; she would hate to see it struggle like Channelside does, she said.
“It’s just low-hanging fruit here,” she said of the Village’s potential. “I think we have a great opportunity to enhance the neighborhood.”