Oak Lawn, Illinois, is a village in Cook County that has become a site of burgeoning marketplace development in several sectors, especially since this publication’s last profile on the village in the February 2017 issue.
Speaking to Oak Lawn Economic Development Specialist Steve Radice, the top story was the lively growth and development of the Stony Creek Promenade shopping center.
Oak Lawn has now embarked on Phase Two of the project, on nine acres west of Phase One at the corner of 111th Street and Cicero Avenue. Phase Two will be welcoming new businesses such as a TJ Maxx and Home Goods store, a new Mariano’s Gas station and mini-mart (at the corner of Lavergne and 111th), and a new restaurant called The Barrel Club (designed by award-winning Oak Park restaurant-design group Aria) of roughly 8,500 square feet. The Barrel Club will bring American cuisine to the good people of Oak Lawn, and will include an outdoor dining area.
The Promenade area has ample parking and the outdoor seating area is served by nearby Wolfe Wildlife bike trail and pedestrian walkway. Radice notes that there is still place for one more 10,000 square foot restaurant or tavern, and that the village is talking to several potential clients.
Village Manager Larry Deetjen says that, since the 2017 profile of Oak Lawn in Business in Focus magazine, the Hubbard Street Group of Chicago has broken ground on what will soon be the Oak Lawn Commons.
Oak Lawn Commons
In September 2018, the Oak Lawn Planning and Development Commission approved a proposal for Oak Lawn Commons, which will replace what was once a K-Mart shopping plaza at 95th Street and Pulaski Road.
The new Commons, headed up by the Hubbard Street Group and Keeler Real Estate, will cost from thirty to forty million dollars. Current tenants such as Chase Bank, Midwest Bank, and Longhorn Steakhouse will be joined by new outparcel eating and drinking establishments and Class A retail anchors (to be announced later this summer) set up beside paved walkways, outdoor seating, and additional parking. Radice describes it as the “total rehab of the area.”
Deetjen says that current construction will emphasize infrastructure improvements with a focus on contemporary storm-water practices and extensive landscaping. It will replace “what was a sea of asphalt,” with the Hubbard Group looking to design what is envisioned as “an award-winning facility.”
Radice also mentions a new development in local grocery at the corner of 54th Avenue and 95th Street (the heart of downtown Oak Lawn), where a Pete’s Fresh Market will replace Fresh Line Foods. Radice says that Fresh Line had been in Oak Lawn for nearly fifty years on the site that Pete’s purchased with the intention of demolishing the old building and setting up their new store in the 60 to 70,000 square foot area.
Deetjen adds that this new location will be the latest for the dynamic, family-owned, high-end grocery chain, and that the village is pleased and excited about this new downtown investment, and also other projects in the pipeline.
Beyond retail, Oak Lawn is seeing development in other sectors. Advocate Health Care has opened a new 62,000 square foot facility which joins Advocate’s existing complement of health care facilities. The Advocate Outpatient Center extends primary and specialty care to the south side of Chicago, giving patients access to over seventy physicians in primary care, cardiology, neurology, general surgery, pediatric cardiology, and in another ten pediatric specialties, plus offering onsite imaging and laboratory facilities, and providing modern healthcare within fifteen minutes of households in the Southland. This clinic is a Class A medical building costing over thirty million dollars and has brought more than one hundred new medical employees to downtown Oak Lawn.
The Center is located near the intersection of 52nd Avenue and 96th Street on the former Beatty Lumber property. Radice says that Advocate purchased the property just a couple of years ago and had only just completed development.
Moving on to community redevelopment, Deetjen says that Oak Lawn has embarked on a two-hundred-and-forty-million-dollar capital investment project to construct a new pipeline and upgrade pumping stations. Oak Lawn’s Regional Water System is Chicago’s second-largest wholesale water customer.
The new pipeline will provide a reliable and cost-effective source of domestic water for upwards of four hundred thousand people living in up to twelve Southland communities through the year 2040.
Deetjen says that both of Oak Lawn’s public high schools – Oak Lawn Community High and HL Richards High – have completed work on new performing arts centers, and that the village’s Park District has expanded its Centennial Park Pavilion and related outdoor recreational fields.
When asked what category of business best succeeds in Oak Lawn, Radice feels that those that have to do with food and entertainment are usually the ones. Radice feels that Oak Lawn is “very much a close-knit neighborhood” with many of the people living in the village either working there or owning businesses.
The presence of a bevy of parishes within the community also promotes the “neighborhood camaraderie which makes the community special.” This probably explains why businesses aimed at families or community-based activity in Oak Lawn tend to flourish. Radice cites family dining establishments like Cooper’s Hawk, Petey’s Bungalow and Palermo’s 95th as particularly successful, as well as bar/restaurants like The Whistle on 95th Street.
Deetjen also cites the efforts of the auto-dealership community, bolstered by the prime location of Oak Lawn, and the growing and sophisticated healthcare industry, anchored by Advocate Healthcare’s Hospital Christ Medical Center and Children’s Hospital.
Oak Lawn’s efforts in business and marketplace development have also seen local establishments gain a degree of fame. Radice says that last year’s Mayor’s Excellence Awards were presented on February 13 to three local businesses of note: Buona Beef, Raising Cane’s, and Gino Grassano of Grassano’s Pizza. The former two were recognized for achievements in architecture and in new business, respectively, while Grassano was recognized for his humanitarian efforts, including preparing and serving food monthly for Oak Lawn’s Ronald McDonald House, and donating food to local schools and parishes.
Deetjen adds that in 2013, the village was recognized by the Southland Visitors and Convention Bureau for running a stellar economic development program. Numerous local businesses were recognized for being in the top-ten grossing establishments per square foot in their respective areas of activity. With new ventures on the rise in the village, expect to see an even wider range of successful Oak Lawn businesses in future.
Deetjen is looking forward to many more Oak Lawn projects on the rise soon, with acquisitions, land assembly, zoning and site plans all under consideration or in the early stages of startup.
He stresses the importance of location to the success of Oak Lawn’s businesses; of prime access to the international airport of Midway: “Great transportation infrastructure and super parks,” he says, along with a police force and good citizens that have made Oak Lawn one of the fifty safest cities to live in America.
As Radice and Deetjen both see it, the future of their fine village is very bright indeed.