OPA Blog

Apartment Recycling – It’s All About Capacity


Recycling while renting has historically been a challenge.  Just google apartment recycling and most of the stories that pop up are about how to recycle in spite of living in an apartment.

Living in Oak Park, whether in apartment or house, makes being green definitely easier.  The Village provides many ways and opportunities for residents to recycle but the challenge of everyday recycling is still a test when you have many people living in their own homes but still under one roof.  Between people moving in an out and the packaging that comes with many online orders a typical recycling bin fills up quickly. And, though it is truly a good thing that this generation of tenants are better overall recyclers, it has caused us at Oak Park Apartments to realize we needed to up our recycling game by increasing can capacity.

Yes, that’s right – bigger and more is definitely better when we are talking recycling containers.  (Hey, and there is even more space if people break down their boxes…please!)

So bring us your bottles, your cans, your papers, your plastics and cardboard…. OPA is bucking the apartment recycling norm!

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Bicycle Racks: A Millennial Amenity

IMG_3080Oak Park is a bicycle friendly village. The Village has worked hard over the years to create a community wide bike plan, register bikes with the police department, add bike paths and bike racks to encourage pedaling and promote guidelines for bikers and motorist to peacefully co-exist.

The Village’s pro-biking efforts have even earned them the title of Bike Friendly Community in 2015 by the League of American Bicyclists. And, since Oak Park is never one to rest on past accolades, they have continued to promote pedal power by approving and installing 13 Divvy bike sharing stations throughout Oak Park just this summer.

So how does this all relate to Oak Park Apartments?

We are a company that values a green mission as well as wanting to provide amenities that benefit our tenants.

A large portion of our tenants are Millennials (19 – 34 year olds) and Millennials bike, walk, use public transportation, rent and take active interest in caring for the environment more then the Baby Boomer generation.

In order to meet the trends of our Millennial tenants and continue supporting common sense green initiatives, OPA has installed indoor bike racks at 26 of our properties with plans for more to come!

Is this shift towards biking here to stay?  OPA is planning on it!

Keep on pedaling, Oak Park!

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Little Free Libraries Come To OPA

lfl opa (2)We’ve all seen them – the little structures popping up on people’s front lawns all over Oak Park. They started showing up about five years ago, many people wondering at first if they were fancy bird houses, until word got out and knowledge of the Little Free Library movement started to spread.
The idea took hold in 2009 in Wisconsin in the shape of an old-fashioned schoolhouse. Originator of the first Little Free Library, Todd Bol, built the first “book box” as a way to memorialize his beloved mother, a teacher who loved to read.  The schoolhouse was put on a post, positioned in his front yard and filled with books. Painted on it read, “Free Books”.  Neighbors loved the idea, commented and wanted their own – and from that one tribute a mission of “exchanging books and bringing people together” was born. As of June of this year there are over 40,000 registered Little Free Libraries in all 50 states and in over 70 countries around the world.
Now Oak Park Apartments has added three more to the list at our properties located at 302 Washington Blvd., 301 Oak Park Ave. and 126 N. Elmwood Ave. with the help of Life Scout Ethan Guzman, scout troop #152, and the Oak Park River Forest Rotary Club (OPRF Rotary).  Oak Park Apartments co-owner and long-time rotary member, Bill Planek, became the answer to Life Scout Guzman’s question of where to place the “book boxes” he had designed and built. Guzman’s project is a necessary step for a scout who is trying to achieve the ranking of Eagle Scout.  The project is required by the scouts as a way to demonstrate leadership through a service that benefits the community.  Guzman’s thought was the Little Free Libraries he constructed would allow neighborhood children greater access to books to borrow and/or trade.
We, at Oak Park Apartments, are looking forward to being a part of the book exchange!
302 Washington Blvd.
302 Washington Blvd.
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124 North Elmwood Ave.
301 North Oak Park Ave.


Oak Park Architecture – Frank Lloyd Write Style

homeandstudioHaving many vintage properties Oak Park Apartments makes it a mission to preserve the historical character of our buildings to ensure the continuing legacy of many a dedicated architect.  Of course, the most famous of these architects is Oak Park’s own Frank Lloyd Wright.
Frank Lloyd Wright is said to be “the greatest American architect of all time”. Frank was born, in 1867, raised in Spring Green and Madison Wisconsin respectively and for the first 20 years of his career, he lived and worked in Oak Park. His mother, Anna, a trained teacher stated upon his birth that he would grow up to build beautiful buildings. She purchased him a set of Fröbel blocks, which he credits for laying the groundwork of his architectural future.
FLW designed over 1,000 structures, over 500 of them were built – 30 of them in Oak Park, and many more in Chicago. The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park was his home base and still remains open today for architectural tours.
Wright promoted organic architecture which encourages design harmony between people and unitynature through sensitive design from which the Prairie School of architecture originated.  Prairie style architecture is a style that is defined by “horizontal lines, flat or hipped roofs with broad overhanging eaves, windows grouped in horizontal bands, integration with the landscape, solid construction and craftsmanship”.
Additionally, FLW is known for developing the concept of the “Usonian home”. “Usonian Homes” were typically small, single-story L-shaped dwellings without a garage or much storage.  A strong visual connection between the interior and exterior spaces is an important characteristic of all Usonian homes.
imagesFLW’s work includes original and innovative examples of many different building types, including offices, churches (most notably Oak Park’s own Unity Temple), schools, hotels and museums.
Wright also often designed many of the interior elements of his buildings, such as the furniture, lighting and stained glass windows.


Oak Park Wright sites:
– Arthur Heurtley House
– Charles E. Roberts House, Remodeling & Stable
– Edward R. Hills House Remodeling (Hills-DeCaro House)
– Edwin H. Cheney House
– Emma Martin Garage (for Fricke-Martin House)
– Francis Wooley House
– Francisco Terrace Apartments Arch (in Euclid Place Apartments)
– Frank Lloyd Wright Home
– Frank Lloyd Wright Playroom Addition
– Frank Lloyd Wright Studio
– Frank W. Thomas House
– George Furbeck House
– George W. Smith House
– Harrison P. Young House Addition & Remodeling
– Harry C. Goodrich House
– Harry S. Adams House & Garage
– Nathan G. Moore House (Moore-Dudley House) & Remodeling
– Nathan G. Moore Stable
– Oscar B. Balch House
– Peter A. Beachey House
– Robert P. Parker House
– Rollin Furbeck House & Remodeling
– Mrs. Thomas H. Gale House
– Thomas H. Gale House
– Unity Temple
– Walter M. Gale House
– Walter Gerts House Remodeling
– William E. Martin House
– William G. Fricke House (Fricke-Martin House)
– Dr. William H. Copeland Alterations to both House & Garage


Encourage Change

14068267_1768136820065529_482440253445026961_nThe Oak Park Area Arts Council’s Off The Wall Project has completed its’ second mural! Located under the Austin Blvd viaduct, adjacent to the Green Line “L” station this year’s second project completes the east side of the underpass and is titled, “Encourage Change”. This mural is the sister piece to the mural installed on the west side of the street last summer, titled “You are the Answer”.
How does such a big project take hold? It was through the efforts of master artist, Carolyn Elaine and her apprentice artists who took it upon themselves to interview and understand the thoughts and feelings of the people of the community as they were walking past or getting off the Green Line. They asked riders and local residents what would they like to see as an extension and compliment to last year’s west side mosaic. One of those interviews was with notable community activist and anti violence advocate, Andrew Holmes, as he was exiting the station. The apprentices approached Mr. Holmes and he felt that many of today’s problems are in part due to the “breakdown of the family structure”. From that statement the idea of “encouraging change” took root, and this year’s artistic mosaic focus became the need to “strengthen the family and mend the community”.
Camille Wilson White, Executive Director of the Oak Park Area Arts Council (OPAAC) is rightfully 14068312_1768136506732227_7363558886040819264_nvery proud of the Off The Wall Project.  “This program is a summer job, the standards are set high for each apprentice” stated Ms. Wilson White. Each apprentice is vetted prior to being hired to create and implement each summer’s projects. The apprentice hopefuls must provide art portfolios and fill out applications before being considered for the program. Once accepted expectations are clearly laid out before work begins.
At the ribbon cutting this past Saturday, Ms. Wilson White sang the praises of master artist, Carolyn Elaine and her assistant, Debra Phelps (Aikia), who co-led the program and mentored the apprentice teen artists, expressing how “marvelous” they (Carolyn and Aikia) are with the kids – “they are outstanding teaching artists.” During the weeks of creating and installing the two mosaics the process also included having the apprentices bring in their own original artwork a couple days out of each week and then sharing thoughts about their art, insights, life and dreams… with their peers. Camille couldn’t say enough about this year’s group of young artists, “They have become a great team. The kids from Oak Park and the kids from the Austin community – all working together to create magnificent public art!”
And finally, Ms. Wilson White wanted to make sure to thank Chicago Alderman Chris Taliaferro of the 29th ward whose supportive efforts were instrumental in making this year’s mosaic possible.

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Green Line “L” History

Like all things Chicago the history of the Green Line is colorful and “connected”.
The origins of the “L” begin with the privately owned Lake Street Elevated Train Company in 1888 when they received a 25 year franchise contract to construct elevated monorail railroads throughout Chicago.
At the time Michael Cassius McDonald, otherwise known as “King Mike”, controlled much of the city’s gambling and criminal operations. In an effort to gain respect as a legitimate businessman “King Mike” became “manager” of Chicago`s first elevated rail system, the Lake Street Line, which because of “King Mike’s” involvement earned itself the nickname in gambling circles as “Mike`s Upstairs Railroad.“
In 1989, the Lake Street Elevated Train Company began to build, raising the first girder into place at Clinton and Lake Street. By 1890 the company decided to scrap the monorail design in favor of a more traditional and less expensive “cross girder” elevated construction. Construction between Market & Madison and California is completed by 1893 and the first regular passenger service begins with over 50,000 passengers riding the line on the first day of service.
The building of the Green Line continued westward but not without complications. In 1893 the company made it’s first request to franchise, which would have allowed them to extend the Green Line all the way to present day 72nd (present day Harlem Avenue) but negotiations between Cicero Township (present day Oak Park) fell apart. On top of that the company had additional struggles; derailment, equipment replacement and decreased ridership led to increased financial strain causing the sale of the company in 1894 to Charles Tyson Yerkes, another businessman with a questionable reputation.  Yerkes immediately injected the badly needed capital into the cash-strapped company and continued negotiations to extend the Lake Street Elevated into Cicero Township (Oak Park). Negotiations between Yerkes and the township were eventually successful, allowing for construction of the Green Line west along South Boulevard to be completed by 1901.images-3
By 1947 private ownership of the “L” was unsustainable and the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) takes over, implementing major changes to the rail system in 1948, including station closures and efficiency strategies to help simplify operations and cut down on costs.
Fast forward to the 1990’s where poor ridership, skyrocketing costs along with deteriorating structures were serious issues as the Green Line “L” turned 100. Needing a capital infusion the CTA decides to close the entire Green Line for renovation in 1994, reopening for service in late spring of 1996 to a tune of many millions.
How will the Green Line continue to evolve throughout the 21st century?  What we do know is that money and technology will play a big factor.

Many thanks to the following sources for providing much needed historical insights: http://www.chicago-l.org/operations/lines/lake.html; http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1988-10-02/features/8802040552_1_gambling-gaming-lake-street-line; http://www.chicago-l.org/history/CTA4.html


Off The Wall Mosaics Benefit Oak Park & Chicago

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The Oak Park Area Arts Council is at it again! The incredible “Off The Wall” mosaics are taking the summer of 2016 by storm with two ambitious projects on their agenda and Oak Park Apartments is thrilled to be the proud recipients of their first design!

In spite of the summer’s heat and humidity, 17 “Off the Wall” interns/senior apprentices, ranging in age from 16 – 19, came together to collaborate on this year’s two mosaic projects.

Camping out in the basement of another of Oak Park Apartments’ properties, theses teens worked through all the intricacies of what the mosaic project entails; hauling supplies, cutting tiles, design layout and configuration until they were ready for the real work – installation. With scaffolding up the group of teens worked diligently with each piece of tile, cementing it in place, grouting, washing and finally cleaning up – to complete the first of this year’s masterpieces (and it truly is!).  Titled “Purple Dove”, and dedicated to the memory of the late, great Prince, OPA is proud to feature this work of art at our 814 South Austin Boulevard property!

With funding from the Village of Oak Park and some private donations, the “Off the Wall” project began employing teen artists over a decade ago to take on all aspects of the work involved in creating these cool public art mosaics. Master artist, Carolyn Elaine and assistant master artist, Debra Phelps, guide these interns through the creative process, providing a hands on learning experience that is one of a kind.

Many fabulous mosaics now adorn different areas of the Village as well as multiple Oak Park Apartments properties thanks to the effort of the Arts Council and this great summer project.

We applaud all for their efforts and stay tuned ….. project number two is underway!!!


Bicycle Barclay – Oak Park’s First Unofficial Historian

imgres-4Oak Park prides itself on a lot of things – architecture, diversity, a fun place to live and its history. And thanks to one particular early Oak Parker, Philander Barclay, Oak Park has much of its’ history captured on film.

Barclay was a bicycle repairman by trade with a passion for photography. Sometime in the 1880’s Bicycle Barclay, as he is fondly known, diligently traversed throughout the two communities of Oak Park and River Forest on his bicycle taking pictures of architecture, railroads and people.

Because of Barclay’s passion for photography, cycling and the world around him the communities of Oak Park and River Forest are fortunate benefactors of a rich and extraordinary collection of over 1,000 photos that tell much of the early history of our villages.

The complete collection of Philander Barclay’s photographs can be viewed at The Historical Society of Oak Park & River Forest or you can see some of Barclay’s photos on the walls of the two Oak Park restaurants that are named after the historian, Barclay’s American Grill and Poor Phil’s.


Vacation Security Tips

imgres-2Summer is at its’ mid point – the time when many people have planned the most anticipated of their summer activities – vacation!
Whether you are traveling cross continent or your vacation destination is just a short drive away there are a few necessary steps that help keep your apartment safe, secure and life running smoothly so you can enjoy some stress-free time away.
  • Either put a hold on your mail or ask a trusted neighbor to collect your mail for you while you are away. Putting a hold on your mail is an easy process, just visit the United States Postal Service website for details.
  • Put your newspapers on hold too.  Just call or go to that papers website for instructions on how to place the paper on hold.  Make sure to schedule ahead of time – newspapers require a few days before they can stop service.
  • If you will be away when your rent check is due pay online or mail a check prior to leaving for vacation so you do not incur any late fees.
  • Close and lock all windows prior to leaving.  You don’t want soggy floors or a ransacked apartment to welcome you upon your return.
  • Create an illusion of being home by placing lights/radio/TV on a timer.  Something as simple as lights and sound are a break-in deterrent.
  • Hide your valuables (and be creative but remember your hiding place) – it is better to be proactive then to be sorry if there is a break- in.
  • Tell a trusted neighbor, relative and/or friend what your vacation itinerary is – date leaving/returning, where you’ll be and a phone number where you can be reached in case of an emergency. And leave a set of keys with them as well.
  • Whatever you do resist the urge to post pictures on any of your social media sites until you have returned from your trip so you don’t tip off the bad guys.images-1
  • And for the ultimate piece of mind you could invest in a DIY security cam – technology has come a long way, making these cameras/apps easy to use and affordable.  Plus, its security that can be really be used all the time.
Being prepared and proactive can provide you with the peace of mind that will allow you to completely un-wind and get the most out of your much needed vacation.  Enjoy!





Tenant FYI – Oak Park Vehicle Sticker Renewal Deadline July 14th

imgres-3Vehicle sticker renewal time is upon us Oak Parkers and here are some answers to your most pressing sticker questions:
Why does the Village require residents to have vehicle stickers? It is a way for the Village to track and verify ownership of its’ residents vehicles.
What do you need to do? If you are a resident of Oak Park who owns or leases a car you need to annually register/re-register that vehicle with the Village.  If you have previously had an Oak Park vehicle sticker for a car you still presently own then you should have received a renewal form in the mail sometime in May. Stickers cost $70 annually,  Reduced fees apply to persons who are 65 or older or have a disability.  You could choose to renew by mail, in person or online. Once the renewal process is completed and paid for your sticker will be mailed to you.
What if you just moved to Oak Park? New residents must present a copy of the vehicle registration and proof of residency that shows the date of residency, such as a lease, closing documents or Post Office mail forwarding receipt.  New residents need to bring these items to the Parking Services Center in Village Hall, 123 Madison St.
When is the deadline? Vehicle stickers must be displayed in your car by July 15 of each year. The vehicle sticker rates increases by $20 after the deadline of July 15th. You also risk getting a $75 ticket if you don’t have your sticker properly displayed in your car window in addition to the $70 initial sticker fee.
What if you have a new car? If you have recently purchased a new car you must be register the new car with the Village of Oak Park. Residents should come to Village Hall with the vehicle sales receipt showing the date of purchase.
What if you no longer own a previously registered car? Simple, you don’t have to do anything!  That car will be automatically removed from the Village of Oak Park’s database.
What if you own a vehicle besides a car?  Trucks, recreational vehicles, motorcycles, mopeds and buses also must be licensed, the rates vary depending on the type of vehicle.


Vehicle stickers must be displayed by midnight on July 14th. The Village of Oak Park offices are opened until 5pm on July 14th…. so avoid the hassle and get your stickers early.