A Thriving Community

Village of Oak Lawn, IL
Written by Claire Suttles

Just 20 minutes from downtown Chicago, Oak Lawn’s location is one of its strongest assets. But while many Oak Lawn residents work and play in the Windy City, locals also have plenty of reasons to stay home.
Businesses of all types thrive in this Southside suburb, so it is chock full of restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues. Affordable homes, friendly neighborhoods, and quality community services round out Oak Lawn’s many assets.

The Southside community boasts a strong transportation network, giving businesses and residents alike easy access to the region’s many amenities. Oak Lawn sits alongside the Tri-State Tollway, which runs from Indiana, through Illinois, all the way up to Wisconsin. A convenient METRA station, which includes parking for 868 vehicles and a mixed commercial-residential development, whisks people back and forth to Chicago.

Oak Lawn’s easy access to Chicago has made it a hot spot for young professionals who work in the city. “Professionals want to locate in Oak Lawn even if they work in downtown,” says Village Manager Larry Deetjen. “The busiest station on the southwest METRA line on a daily basis is the Oak Lawn station.” This statistic also demonstrates Oak Lawn’s strength as a center for business. With countless people driving by or riding the train through the village, local businesses never lack for patrons.

Chicago Midway International airport is located right next door to Oak Lawn, so businesses and residents have easy access not only to America’s third largest city, but to the entire world. “We are within ten minutes of one of the busiest, highest growth international airports in this nation,” Mr. Deetjen shares. “The connections are superb. It is an absolutely wonderful asset.”

A number of industries are thriving and growing in Oak Lawn. The Village is particularly well known for its automotive dealers. “Oak Lawn continues to have the flagship, iconic auto dealers with household names,” Mr. Deetjen points out. “These are names that have been doing business in Chicago for years. They are leaders on a nationwide basis.” These automotive dealers have long been an important part of the local economy and have a solid history of supporting local organizations and sports teams. “These are dealers that give back to the community, that are well recognized by backing our Chicago teams.”

The healthcare industry also enjoys a strong presence in Oak Lawn. Advocate Christ Medical Center provides excellent healthcare as well as ample employment. With over 6,000 employees, “they are a critical and outstanding employer and a positive influence on why you would want to locate to Oak Lawn,” Mr. Deetjen remarks. Truven Health has named Advocate Christ Medical a Top 100 Hospital and in 2014, US News & World Report ranked the medical center as one of the top 50 hospitals in the nation for cardiology/heart surgery, gynecology, geriatric medicine and neurology/neurosurgery. US News & World Report also named Advocate Christ Medical Center one of the top three hospitals in the state. The hospital is undergoing new developments that will improve its healthcare even more – and create more jobs for the community. Currently, the hospital is wrapping up construction on a new, seven-level bed tower and plans to build a multilevel parking garage and pedestrian bridge next. “They are well into their 2017 vision,” Mr. Deetjen reports. “They are spending over a half billion dollars.”

Education is another local industry that is enjoying strong growth. 97 different colleges are located within a 50-mile radius of the Village, and Saint Xavier University has some facilities in Oak Lawn itself. “They are a large employer,” Mr. Deetjen says of the local university. “They employ over 1,600 individuals.” Oak Lawn also boasts a top convention center that attracts major gatherings. “Oak Lawn Hilton and Convention Center has long been a fixture in the Southland. We have a first class convention center based right here.”

Restaurants and retail stores also tend to do very well in Oak Lawn. The community’s density means that there are always plenty of people within a short distance to these businesses, so local eateries and shops enjoy a steady flow of patrons. “When they look at the stats, they [business owners] can’t believe the high density we have, the number of household units we have that are in close proximity to where they are looking to locate a business. That is extremely important.” The success of local businesses demonstrates the significance of operating within a high density location. “The companies that have located here are seeing the results in their retail sales.” In fact, several chains have found their Oak Lawn location to be their highest performing one.

There is still an opportunity for new competition to take advantage of Oak Lawn’s high-density neighborhoods. “The players here are doing great so we are looking to build on those successes,” Mr. Deetjen explains. “There is plenty of room for growth in apparel and electronics, furniture and home goods. We are also seeing plenty of growth in dining establishments and opportunity for more dining establishments.”

A new shopping center provides an ideal location for restaurants and shops looking to open a site in Oak Lawn. The first construction phase of the Stony Creek Promenade project is complete and business is already booming. Mariano’s Fresh Market, the shopping center’s anchor business, opened with record sales. “They had a record opening day, a record opening week, and a record opening month in Oak Lawn,” says Economic Development Specialist Steve Radice. Mr. Deetjen adds, “They have had a really high growth rate in establishing new stores and Oak Lawn’s Mariano’s is right at the top as measured by gross sales. It is a rock star.”

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants is another key tenant of the phase I development. The upscale eatery has locations throughout America but “their number one performing restaurant of the 29 that exist across the country is none other than the one in Oak Lawn at Stony Creek,” says Mr. Deetjen.

Other Stony Creek Promenade restaurants and retailers include Meatheads, Great Clips, Sleepy’s, Chipotle, Massage Envy, and Starbucks. Phase II is currently under development and seeking tenants. When completed, Stony Creek Promenade will not be just another generic strip mall; the 70,000-square-foot shopping center will be architecturally aesthetic and will incorporate public spaces as well as a walkway to the adjacent Wolfe Wildlife Refuge Center.

Oak Lawn’s amenities and employment opportunities are attracting a steady stream of young families who are ready to move out of the city and own an affordable home. “Oak Lawn is a family oriented community,” Mr. Deetjen remarks. “Millennial age families come to Oak Lawn to establish their households here and work in the greater Chicago area. Chicago has done a great job in recruiting corporate headquarters, particularly in the tech area, and a lot of these young folks are looking at Oak Lawn where housing can be reasonable and there is a good transportation network to the greater Chicago area.”

Oak Lawn’s schools also help draw in young families. “We have a great mix of private and public schools,” Mr. Deetjen says. “Our private schools are well known throughout the area.” Families can also take advantage of Oak Lawn’s outdoor recreational opportunities. “We have an award winning park district that is recognized nationally for not only the acres of open space and organized sports fields and field houses, but for its programs as well.” Park properties include indoor and outdoor tennis courts, a driving range, playgrounds, picnic facilities, walking paths, multi-recreational facilities, ball fields, a natural wetland refuge, an indoor ice rink, two outdoor swimming pools, two fitness centers, a community theatre, a skate park and an 18-hole golf course with a year-round clubhouse.

Oak Lawn has worked hard to make the community a great place to work and play. The Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau recently recognized these efforts with a municipal leadership award in economic development – a clear indicator that Oak Lawn is on a strong path for ongoing success. As Mr. Deetjen summarizes, “Oak Lawn is an established leader in delivering services and promoting and encouraging a robust economy.”



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