By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

The Oak Park Economic Development Corporation (OPEDC) announced its long-running chairman, Marty Noll, is stepping down from the position after 27 years, according to an OPEDC press release.

Noll, who serves as chairman of Community Bank of Oak Park River Forest, is succeeded by Tom Gallagher, who serves on the OPEDC board of directors and is senior vice president and chief credit officer of Community Bank.

Noll stepped down from the chairman position on June 1 and will finish his service on the board at the end of 2018, according to the press release.

OPEDC is a quasi-governmental body hired by the village of Oak Park to attract and retain business development in the village. Formerly known as the Oak Park Development Corporation, the group restructured in 2014 and rebranded as the OPEDC, enacting new bylaws that limit non-governmental board members to two consecutive terms.

“My willingness to be involved and get things accomplished was just there. It was in the genes, I guess,” Noll said in the press release. “If you care about what’s happening and want to contribute, you simply have to want to do it. All the knowledge in the world unused doesn’t get anything done.”

Gallagher said in the press release that Noll is “approachable and always puts Oak Park first.”

“He always makes time,” Gallagher said. “He’s accessible and ‘gets’ economic development.”

OPEDC Executive Director John Lynch said Noll “understands the need to preserve the village’s rich history and culture; as a business leader, he knows the importance of keeping Oak Park welcoming to new residents and business investment.

“He has been invaluable to me as both a mentor and a source of knowledge and insight into this community,” he said.

Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb said of Noll, “I love him dearly.”

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

Request For Proposals – 700-728 Madison Street

The Village of Oak Park is seeking proposals from qualified companies for the development of a Village-owned parcel at 700-728 Madison Street, located at near the corner of Madison Street and Oak Park Avenue. Bids will be accepted until Friday, July 6, 2018.

Download RFP here

As District House nears completion and the delivery of its condominium units, new commercial tenants are also making plans. A new fitness concept called Club Pilates will occupy approximately half of the retail frontage on Lake Street. Owner Kristin Kohn, who owns another Club Pilates studio in Westmont, says Club Pilates offers “approachable, affordable top-quality Pilates for all shapes, sizes and experience levels.”

Becoming the owner of two franchised Club Pilates studios combines Kohn’s love of fitness with her business background. She is currently finishing the 500-hour certification to be a Pilates instructor and will be teaching in her own studio by the time the Oak Park location opens later this year.kristin-headshot.jpg

“We offer group classes for all levels so that everyone feels comfortable, from a beginner to an expert.  We do not require pricey one-on-one sessions for beginners to join our group classes,” Kohn says. Kohn adds that the full-day class schedule and career path also make it easier for instructors to have Pilates as a full-time career.

On selecting the location at 704 Lake Street, Kohn says, “Oak Park is a vibrant community that blends the best of suburban and urban living.” She adds, “We are excited to bring Club Pilates to the active people of Oak Park.” The District House project also features 28 artful urban residences and will mark the gateway between the historic Hemingway District and downtown Oak Park.

“Club Pilates is for every person who can benefit from a stronger, more flexible body and a more balanced life,” Kohn says.

Learn more about District House at www.districthouseoakpark.com and Club Pilates at www.clubpilates.com.

24670

 

Total private investment:

$29,900,000

 

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New full-time equivalent employees:

215

 

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62,000 new square feet leased

80,000 new square feet developed

 

Overview: In 2017, OPEDC, worked in close partnership with the Village of Oak Park to solidify Oak Park’s position as the premier urban suburb west of the city. Oak Park welcomed new retail in Downtown, the Hemingway District, the Oak Park Arts District, the Pleasant District and Southtown. Retail occupancy hit 100% on Marion Street between North Boulevard and Lake Street before year end. 2017 saw completion of The Emerson, a mixed-use development with 271 rental and ground floor tenants including Target, The Groomery, Firecakes Donuts and, adjacent, Wheel and Sprocket.

On the other side of the el tracks, Lincoln Properties’ 250-unit mixed use project got underway, with delivery expected in early 2019. In October, the Village Board approved a step design for Albion, a mixed-use project at 1000 Lake Street. Meanwhile, District House condominiums on Lake Street is 75 % sold and looking forward to delivering units in May 2018. Lexington Homes plans to turn most of a block of Madison Street into townhomes. Flexhouse, a new type of home/work environment, will soon come to Harrison Street; Harrison Street will also welcome MORA Asian Kitchen, Rare Bird Preserves and other new tenants. Two new breweries moved into the Pleasant District: Wild Onion Tied House and Two Brothers Social Tap. Oak Park has the highest retail occupancy rate of twelve similar communities including Naperville, Evanston and La Grange.

 2017 Featured Projects

emersonThe Emerson

The Emerson is a new mixed-use tower next to the Harlem CTA and Metra stop. 271 rental units—currently over 30% leased—span two buildings, connected by a sky-bridge. Retail, including Target and The Groomery, occupy the first floor. The complex furnishes 428 parking spaces for use by residents, shoppers, and downtown commuters.

 albionAlbion

In October, a stepped design for a mixed-use building at 1000 Lake Street was submitted by Albion Residential and approved by the Oak Park Village Board. The plan, which was amended from earlier versions, calls for the Lake Street frontage of the building to top out at 19 stories, with height gradually dropping to the north. Along its north façade, the building will be nine stories tall, or 96 feet in height with “steps” built into the structure at floors 10, 14 and 18. The building plans to include 265 residential units and first-floor retail space, as well as 207 parking stalls.

Retail Tenants: Target & Cooper’s Hawk

In October, Target opened a small-format store with doors opening onto both Lake Street and Westgate. The store is a tenant in The Emerson.

chtarget new

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant is the anchor tenant in the mixed-use 21-story Vantage building at 150 Forest. The Countryside-based restaurant and winery chain, which now has more than 20 locations, operates a restaurant, bar, tasting room, “artisan market” and private events space as well as outdoor dining and an active wine club.

fhFlexhouse

Breaking ground on Harrison Street in spring of 2018 is Flexhouse, recent winner of the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) Illinois Charter Award. According to developer Chris Dillion of Campbell Coyle, Flexhouse is “a new type of home that is tuned to today’s buyer.” These modern and efficient homes foster sustainable choices and appeal to urban lifestyles by incorporating live/work design elements. The project sold out in approximately one month, while tenants and buyers are sought for the “bookend” buildings at 200 and 210 Harrison Street.

 

Lexington Homeslex

In December, Lexington Homes partnered with the Village in a redevelopment agreement which will bring 21 town homes to two Village-owned lots on Madison Street between Home Avenue and Clinton. Construction will commence in 2018.

It’s not even spring yet, but new growth is sprouting in the Oak Park Arts District. Several new vendors have plans to move in, and longer-term tenants plan to expand their concepts.

2017_02_22 Corner View_previewBreaking ground this spring is Flexhouse, recent winner of the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) Illinois Charter Award. According to developer Chris Dillion of Campbell Coyle, Flexhouse is “a new type of home that is tuned to today’s buyer.” Dillion explains that these modern and efficient homes appeal to urban lifestyles and foster sustainable choices. He adds that Flexhouse “incorporates live/work functionality [and was] designed with the artist and entrepreneur in mind.” The project sold out in approximately one month, while tenants and buyers are sought for the “bookend” buildings at 200 and 210 Harrison Street.

Flexhouse isn’t the only news. MORA Asian Kitchen plans to arrive on Harrison Street in spring 2018. The concept features tapas-sized plates and Asian fusion cuisine. This will be their third location, following Plainfield and Bolingbrook.

rare bird1Elizabeth Madden, founder of Rare Bird Preserves, plans to relocate her business to 211 Harrison Street, creating a space that is part commercial kitchen and part retail shop (she is currently working out of temporary kitchen space on Chicago Avenue in Chicago). Rare Bird is acclaimed for its micro-batch, hand-crafted jam made the traditional way: in copper pots, with the best fruit ingredients. Madden says, “We have a strong, loyal customer base, who are excited for our new shop in Oak Park. We hope to bring many new people to the Oak Park Arts District from within the Oak Park community and surrounding suburbs, as well as Chicago fans and customers from all over the United States.”

happy apple 2Soon District Kitchen and Tap, the newest food concept of Patrick O’Brien, chef and owner of the Scratch Restaurant Group, will join other tenants–Happy Apple Pie Shop (open since 2017), Tapster Robotics and more–in the revamped Harrison and Harvey building.

Meanwhile, Stacy Fifer is about to open her doors this month with l’Institut français d’Oak Park, offering university-level instruction of French language and literature. Fifer is an experienced university instructor whose future plans for the institut include organized culture- and language-based trips to France.

nature yoga sanctuaryOther concepts, like Nicole Sopko’s Nature Yoga Sanctuary, are not new to the neighborhood; their former home was around the corner. In their new and larger space, they also run a vegan café. Additionally, kid and adult birthday parties—which include group yoga lessons and events —are now available.

 

Similarly, Crossfit Spero, owned by David Greene, is not new to the street, but plans to move to a larger space. Greene says the new location will allow them to offer simultaneous classes for adults and children as well as programming with demands for larger equipment.

With so many dynamic concepts now anchoring the district, growth is already underway. Residents and visitors can find delicious things to eat, interesting places to live and work, and rewarding experiences in the Oak Park Arts District on Harrison Street.

 

 

Open for Business December Profile: Firecakes Donuts

“Donuts are good for your soul,” says Alejandra Morena, Firecakes Donuts’ supervisor at its new Oak Park location. Possibly Oak Parkers agree with her claim, for the new shop just across North Boulevard from the Harlem CTA entrance is frequently packed with folks eating in and ordering donuts to go. Good for the soul, or just good for the tastebuds. Good either way.

If you’ve heard of Firecakes, you might know about its signature dish, the donut ice cream sandwich. They offer a classic version, a build-your-own and a (rotating) featured. At the Oak Park location, the third and newest store for Firecakes, they are trying something new: chicken sandwiches on a brioche bun. These come with special Firecakes sauce as well as their own coleslaw and house-made potato chips.

I asked Moreno how Firecakes set itself apart from its competitors. We sat together at a long table as the sunlight poured in. Her answer was this: they focus on quality and consistency. They make sure that their products are always excellent, and this steady delivery keeps customers coming back for more. Jonathan Fox, Firecakes Donuts owner, elaborated: “You also have to give [the customer] something compelling. There’s got to be a differential, this element of separation that is going to make people think […] of going out of their way to have a Firecakes. How do we make it special? It’s one of those indulgences […] that is very approachable and very affordable. We have donuts that are $1 and $2.24 and we have donuts that are a little bit more.”

Fox—whose other locations are in River North and Lincoln Park—said he first heard of Oak Park from his neighbor, who happens to be one of the principals of Clark Street Development, the company responsible for the Emerson. Fox says, “I really liked what I saw. I liked the residential development. I liked the quaintness and the attention to detail on Marion Street. I felt like there was a nice balance of restaurants […] [With] the demographic of Oak Park proper as well as River Forest, I thought we could do well. The final thing that pulled me in was having the Metra and the el here. Being on the corner here by the Harlem stop is a good thing.” Fox adds that the Village made it “refreshingly easy” to open. He says they were “respectful and practical.”

I asked Moreno how the first two weeks were. She said, “It was amazing. It was really great to see so many people come out and say, we’re really glad that you’re here.”

The next time you’re looking for a peppermint hot chocolate donut or a classic buttermilk old-fashioned, the next time you want to bring an assorted box to work or try out a candied pepper bacon and maple long john, the next time you want to get your vegan on and still enjoy a donut, the next time you want to reserve online and try order pick up, the next time you want a donut ice cream sandwich, stop by the new Firecakes Donuts at 104 N. Maple in Oak Park. Open early until late seven days a week: commuters, grab your breakfast as early as 6:30 and night owls, shut it down 9 p.m. weekdays and 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. All the donuts, just about all the time.

What can you buy at the new small-format Target in Oak Park?

Groceries. Electronics. Apparel. Exercise supplies. Greeting cards. Toys. Housewares. There’s a small Starbuck’s right inside, in case you need a pick-me-up while shopping. The essentials and then some.

Ivan Bahena—store manager—talked with me recently about this new, small-format Target. He mentioned that, sometimes, multiple guests comment on a product they would like this story to carry. One example is baby apparel. Bahena got enough requests that he passed the idea up the line. Within two weeks, the store was stocking children’s and baby clothes, including holiday onesies and party dresses for the toddler set.

Ivan laughs that not all of his customer requests are fulfilled. He says, “My message has been: I can try, but I can’t make any promises. At the end of the day, there’s only so much I can do with the space we have available. But if it makes sense, if it’s multiple requests from multiple guests, I will send the communication up.” He says, “I am more than willing to listen to your feedback and to work with you.”

Bahena—his persona and his promise—is a great example of the service that Target is famous for. He has worked for Target for 13 years. When he had the opportunity to become manager of this new store, he jumped at the chance. Bahena, who great up in Chicago and now lives in Logan Square, says, “I am really excited to join [the Oak Park] community.”

At 22,000 square feet in this small-format size, they can’t stock everything. However, Bahena notes that, by using Target.com online, a customer can order any item Target carries and have it delivered to this store—and then simply drop in and pick it up when it’s ready. If the item is something this Target stocks, it will be ready within one hour. If it’s coming from another Target location, it might take 2-4 business days—at which point the customer will get a message that the item is waiting for them. Simply show and ID and go home with your goods.

Bahena wants customers to know there is ample parking for Target shopping located inside the Emerson building; visitors can enter from Westgate or Maple. The Target parking within that garage is clearly marked. The Holley Court garage is also nearby and, like all Village lots, free for the first hour and a half.

Bahena says, “Even though we’re small, we do have a little bit of everything.” He adds that all his customers will get the same Target promise personally from him: “a commitment of delivering low-price promise and delivering a great service for our guests.”  Just in time for holiday shopping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jason Ebel, half of the Two Brothers duo that has recently brought Two Brothers Social Tap to 100 S. Marion Street in Oak Park, says that, at Two Brothers, they like to say they have 450 family members in their company—everyone who is employed across their five locations. Ebel says, “When you treat your employees with respect, you also treat your customers with respect.”

Indeed, Oak Park customers are drawn to this family enterprise. They probably also love the convenient location, delicious beer, sustainably sourced food, friendly atmosphere, and heated patio. The menu changes seasonally and, while some favorites are always available, other items are inspired by foods as they become plentiful locally.

Ebel says that one reason they selected Oak Park for their newest location is that they wanted to get closer to the city. Oak Park—with the CTA green line steps from the front door of Two Brothers Social Tap—fit that bill nicely.

Ebel, who was trained as an architect, especially appreciates the history in Oak Park. He says, “It’s very humbling, because we don’t pretend anywhere near the stature [of some Oak Park greats] but we sure like being a part of all the things that go on in Oak Park and the community that embraces it.”

“The sense of community is great in Oak Park,” Ebel says, noting that officials at the Village were welcoming and helpful, genuinely interested in the Two Brothers story. Ebel notes that the Village granted them a license to sell their new line of distilled spirits, made in Aurora, IL—a feature unique to the Oak Park Two Brothers location.

Looking for a place to relax in the morning or earlier afternoon? Two Brothers Social Tap is also a coffee shop as well as a restaurant and a place to buy craft beers and special spirits—to stay or to go. When I ask Ebel how they drive foot traffic, Ebel says, “Overall, we feel that, if we can get them in and show them a good time, they will come back.”

 

You can buy bikes and bike equipment in the stunning new location of Wheel & Sprocket, on Westgate Boulevard in Oak Park. Of course you can; it’s a bike store. You can also have the bike you already own tuned up or serviced there. But after having spent some time talking to the general manager, Eric Krzystofiak, I’m realizing that Wheel & Sprocket is indeed a bike shop—and much more than that.

According to Eric, “Advocacy [for bike riding] is a huge part of what we do,” noting that the Wheel & Sprocket Company—Oak Park is their eighth store—participates in or supports eighty biking events per year. These events help educate bikers as well as create safer biking infrastructure all around. “Of course we want to be successful and be here [in Oak Park] for years and years and years. But a big part of that is being involved in the community and helping support cycling,” says Eric.

Noel Kegel, the co-owner of the Wheel & Sprocket company, says that, when choosing a new location for a store, they look for a place with “a couple of elements that fit with our cultural DNA; [we look for a spot that] has some history, some character. And we look to really be a part of the neighborhood.” Oak Park fits that bill and they are excited to be here. He adds, “Customer service [to help them open] at the Village has been excellent.”

Their spot on Westgate Boulevard, across from The Emerson mixed-use development which will house Target on its ground floor and residential apartments above, was selected with proximity to The Emerson in mind. They hope to interface with the residents of The Emerson in various ways, as well as with shoppers at Target and other stores. Possible future collaborations, according to Eric, include Wheel & Sprocket picking up, repairing and returning bikes to and from the bike room at The Emerson while residents are at work for the day.

Both Noel and Eric mentioned Chris Kegel, founder of the company and Noel’s father who passed away last February. Noel and his sister Amelia then took over the company. Noel says, “I want to honor what my dad started and take it forward into the future. We’re all doing that; we’re all sort of honoring his legacy by keeping it going strong.” Of his four years so far at Wheel & Sprocket, Eric says, “It’s the most special thing I’ve ever been a part of.”

Upcoming events include a ten-week indoor cycling class at Wheel & Sprocket, plus outdoor winter biking on fat tires. They have a Grand Opening planned in October that will coincide with the opening of Target. Eric, who strives to be friendly and available every day, “There’s nothing more special than getting more people on two wheels.”

From the time when he first opened his family business, Wild Onion Brewery & Pub in Lake Barrington, Mike Kainz and his family members have been scoping the greater Chicago area for a second location, closer to the city. Mike started coming to Downtown Oak Park’s MicroBrew Review as a vendor and he knew right away that Oak Park was the right fit for a second location because of the diversity, the sense of community and the overall energy in Oak Park. His second location, Wild Onion Tied House, 1111 South Boulevard in Oak Park, opened this month.

Wild Onion Tied House takes its name from Prohibition Era watering holes “tied” to their parent breweries; these second locations were called Tied Houses. Kainz and his family chose a property that was once a popular theater, a live venue in 1913 and a film theater in the ensuing decades, a thriving place during Prohibition. Kainz says records show the space hosted 800 people at a time. The building with its stunning skylight was designed by native Oak Park architect E.E. Roberts. Kainz says, “I can almost hear the voices inside the building.”

Tied House currently offers seventeen Wild Onion beers on tap, with more offerings in bottles and cans. The night I was there, I was wowed by the honey truffle burrata appetizer and the blooming salmon entrée as well as the gracious service. Kainz has a live music performance schedule: smaller acts, he says, and often acoustic duos. In addition, he runs a Monday through Friday happy hour with dollar off beers and appetizers. Three TVs will adorn the bar area for game viewing. Additionally, Kainz is planning movie nights: stay tuned. He is optimistic about attracting newer residents to Oak Park such as those living in the Vantage and (soon-to-be-opened) Emerson buildings. He continues to reach out to condo associations and other communities within Oak Park to spread the word about Wild Onion Tied House.

Kainz and his brother started their brewing business two decades ago out of their parents’ garage thanks to early financing through their parents. He comes from a tight-knit family; running this family business has been his life and livelihood for a long time. So far, Oak Park has given Kainz and Wild Onion Tied House a warm welcome. He said, “It’s been a fun process, becoming integrated with the community.” After a long search, Kainz and his family have found the home of their second location—Tied House—in this restored Oak Park theater on South Boulevard, a space where, after a long hiatus, Oak Parkers can once again find libations, entertainment, meals and good cheer.

At the new Academia Institute of Language and Culture at 308 Madison Street in Oak Park, adults can take courses such as The Neuroscience of Social Justice, Creative Writing, Japanese for Adults, and Introduction to Classical Music. The teenage set might dip their toes into Mandarin, Italian, or French, among other offerings. And younger children—preschoolers and elementary age—might attend summer camp, bilingual story times, or classes including Indian Mythology, Arabic, Greek, Polish and many more. Academia opened its doors only six weeks ago and, already, many are taking advantage of its rich curriculum for all ages.

Recently I spoke with Kaycee Militante (pictured), Director of Children’s Programming and Curriculum, to learn more about Academia. Militante has worked as a classroom teacher and a trainer of teachers. I asked her why she chose Oak Park as the location for Academia. She says, “People are curious here. We thought there was a need for it, that people were hungry for a place like this.” In the planning period, she notes, the team discovered there were many local programming options for younger children but not as many for elementary-aged, teens and adults. Academia aims to fill that gap in Oak Park.

Knowing that today’s families are busy, Academia has created a flexible model. Adults may take classes, and drop their children in another classroom for a story time and childcare while they do so. Preschool and children’s classes have flexible start times. Elementary students will be bused from local public schools to Academia for after-school offerings and a half-time kindergarten for River Forest families—including transportation—is available. Many classes work on a drop-in basis. There is even adult summer camp, and monthly family membership helps make things affordable. Militante says, “Academia’s goal is to develop a reputation for being a place that makes learning truly fun for children and adults.”

She says, “We live in a culturally and academically rich area, but sometimes it’s tough to reach Chicago to attend classes and programs that interest you.” A trip to Academia on Madison Street could be a more convenient option for learners of any age to pursue interests, discover new hobbies, build community and have fun.

Obsessed Kitchen and Bar is the newest venture of co-owners Dan and Tricia Vogel, but it’s not their first business in Oak Park. Before opening Obsessed at 800 S. Oak Park Avenue, the Vogels ran (and still run) a catering company, Food Obsession, for four years on South Boulevard. I sat down with Dan Vogel to discuss this new opening and life as a chef and owner.

Although Vogel now wears many hats within the businesses, he says, “My first love has always been cooking on the line. When the ticket printer just keeps printing and printing and printing and you just have to cook. We call it controlled chaos. […] For me, that’s the part that is the most fun. The cooking, the coming out and talking to guests.”

If you have dined at Obsessed Kitchen and Bar since its opening March 23, 2017, you will know that Vogel does circulate through the house, greeting guests. The night I was there, he came to make sure I was pleased with my burger (and I was).

One strategy Vogel uses is to hire great people who bring skills he may not have himself. He says, “The important thing is to know what I’m good at, and what I’m not good at. […] We try to surround ourselves with guys and gals that are smart and willing to put their input in.” He laughs that his middle-school-aged son is also helping him create good posts on Instagram.

Vogel’s advice for would-be business owners in Oak Park is to be proactive in forging a relationship with the Village. “Open the line of communication,” Vogel says, “Introduce yourself and really explain to them what you’re trying to do. When we opened up Food Obsession, we had them inspect us twice before we even started anything because I wanted to know what we needed to do first. When it came time for the inspection, we were able to walk through and say: You said you wanted this done? We did it.” Knowing the Village’s expectations beforehand helped the inspections go smoothly.

I asked Vogel about next projects. He does have some plans, he says, but for Obsessed Kitchen and Bar Vogel says, “We’re not trying to be anything more than a neighborhood restaurant and bar that focuses on family—and when we say neighborhood, we mean Oak Park, Forest Park, River Forest, Berwyn, and whoever else wants to be in the neighborhood.” Some of his staff and many of his customers live in the neighborhood immediately surrounding the restaurant.

Up and coming? Brunch! Vogel plans to start offering brunch after Fourth of July. No eggs and bacon, he says, but avocado toast, chilaquiles, huevos rancheros. “I call it Brunch Food that I’d Like to Eat,” says Vogel.

You might see him washing dishes, doing payroll, cooking, or feeding his two children a snack. No matter what he’s up to, Dan Vogel will give you a hearty hello and serve you food so fresh and tasty that you might even become obsessed with it.