Oak Park, IL- A Wonderful Urban Suburb in Chicagoland and Home to the Highest Concentration of Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings

Oak Park was first settled in 1835 but took much later to incorporate (1902). It wasn’t until the 1870s with the construction of  its own railroad depot that Oak Park started to grow ballooning from 500 residents in 1870 to nearly 2,000 in 1890. The late 19th saw the construction of streetcar lines and Oak Park’s population really started to expand. This was also at the same time that Frank Lloyd Wright settled in the area and became his first laboratory for cutting edge architecture design and now holds the best concentration of his designs in the world. By 1910 the population exploded to 20K and by 1930 it nearly hit its peak at 60K tripling in 3 decades. In a progressive move Oak Park, passed the Open Housing Ordinance in 1968, which helped devise strategies to integrate the village rather than resegregate. The City currently boasts nearly a 20% African American population and only 60% are White. Oak Park maintained relative stability in the Post WWII years only shedding about 15K of its peak population.

 That last decade have actually seen a population reversal with 3,000 new residents as the City made efforts to densify its downtown area centered on Lake and Marion. Other quality urban business districts exist along Oak Park, Harrison, and Chicago Ave. The other biz districts (Harlem, Roosevelt, Madison & North Ave) still struggle from auto centric buildings and orientation. They certainly have the potential to become thriving mixed-use district with the right investment and infill development. Oak Park could also benefit from a dedicated bike station system and better economic diversity but overall this is a great urban area and one of Chicago’s best urban suburbs.

Click here to view my Oak Park, IL album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* High connected street grid (with the exception of some defensible streets).
* Solid public transit and pretty convenient access to Dwtn.
* Solid ADA infrastructure but plenty of spots without modern ADA curb cuts.
* Excellent array of walkable schools that are well rated. All public schools however.
* Lots of apts available and good variety. Studios lease btwn $800-2K , 1-beds anywhere in the 1Ks, 2-beds the low 1Ks-3K, and 3-beds btwn 2K-4K.
* Great for-sale diversity as well. Lots of condos with 1-beds selling btwn 85K-250K, 2-beds sell btwn 115K-450K with lots of afford condos, 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 180K- low 1Ms. Good number of 3-bed condos too. Some more expensive mansions as well.
* Good number of dedicated affordable housing in Oak Park.
* No huge parks but lots of small-medium sized parks well distributed throughout Oak Park. Also a major ice skating center and outdoor pool.
* Excellent tree canopy.
* Lots of families with kids live here but also a fair amount of young professionals.
* Solid cultural amenities including plenty of food & bev businesses, lots of art galleries, a historic theater, several local performing arts centers, lots of historic sites and local museums and a plethora of Frank Lloyd Wright homes as this was a long time home for him.
* Great retail options including several full service supermarket, a couple gourmet options as well, a plethora of drug stores, an urban target, a 10 thousand villages, tons of boutiques, gift shops, home goods, and clothing stores, lots of banks, several book stores, lots of dessert joints & gifts, several churches, a major hospital and two large medical centers, and a local post office and public library.
* Generally a very safe place to reside.
* Some stunning historic architecture thanks to all the late 19th century mansions including many Frank Lloyd Wright homes, but also plenty of more normal architecture.
* The best urban biz districts are along Oak Park, Lake Aven/Marion (Dwtn), Harrison, and Chicago Ave is generally pretty good.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* A couple dedicated bike lanes but no apparent bike sharing system in Oak Park.
* Not great economic diversity.
* Some autocentric stretches along Harlem, Roosevelt, Madison, and North Avenue.
* Northern third of Oak Park is newer large lot singly family homes with lower density and less walkable access to retail and cultural amenities.

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