David King has been working to fill vacant storefronts in the Oak Park area for more than 27 years, but he's never seen a year like 2010.
During the recent "Great Recession," not a lot of new businesses were opening here, or anywhere else. As a matter of fact, King — a Forest Park resident who has run his own commercial real estate company, David King & Associates, with his sister Debbie for 17 years — had his worst year ever in 2009, only leasing two retail spaces in Oak Park's main shopping districts.
But 2010 saw a return to glory, as the Oak Park-based company leased or sold 13 spaces in downtown Oak Park, which includes the areas near Harlem Avenue and Lake Street and Oak Park Avenue and Lake. New additions to the village include a bakery, knitting store and a restaurant run by Robert Morris University.
"That was a record year for us, absolutely," said King, 53, who graduated from Oak Park and River Forest High School in 1975. "Quite candidly, that's because when we started in 2010, we never had this many vacant storefronts."
Seven of those real estate deals were on or near the newly renovated block of 100 North Marion Street. King said the fancy brick streets and bluestone sidewalks on the road did help to spur interest from retailers, as the block is now completely occupied. Not to mention, the small storefronts were more affordable for independent, entrepreneurial shop owners looking to chase their dreams.
Marion Street as well as Oak Park Avenue near Lake Street are starting to fill up, but King believes that streets such as Roosevelt Road, along with Marion just south of the train tracks, may see increased interest in 2011, with high-profile road reconstruction projects planned there.
"I consider myself extremely fortunate to be here, and to help sell this village," King said. "In order to rent a storefront, part of the sale is obviously how great a community this place is."