Since the real estate recession of 2008, the local real estate market has seen a reawakening of sorts. While the bread and butter of Oak Park real estate might be its historical housing stock, as the market has recovered, there has been a strong showing from new construction in the downtown Oak Park area. 

While a spate of new high-end apartment towers have been garnering a lot of attention, smaller, luxury condominium buildings are catering to local empty nesters and quietly making big sales. 

Maple Place on Chicago Avenue is the first of these post-recession buildings to be completed and ready for occupancy. With only two units available as of press time, it seems to be filling a niche in the community.

Maple Place was developed by Altierra Development Group LLC, operated by Oak Park residents Paul Zimmerman and Jonathan Shack. From the very beginning the developer set high standards for the project in terms of design and sustainability. 

The building is eco-efficient and LEED registered, which Zimmerman says affected every aspect of construction from the use of recycled products to utility standards.

In terms of unit efficiency, the building offers exterior house wrap and sealants to provide a moisture and air barrier, high-efficiency furnaces with auto-modulation comfort control, efficient central cooling systems, an Energy Star appliance package, a digital programmable thermostat and high-performance, low-e windows and patio doors.

Of the heating and cooling systems, Zimmerman notes that this is the first time that state-of-the-art Dettson products from Canada have been used in the United States. 

“They run continuously at a lower level,” Zimmerman said. “It provides a quieter and more constant temperature.”

He adds, “Because this building is new construction, we’re able to build in a high level of insulation also. We were very conscious of the fact that a lot of our buyers would be coming from single-family homes into a multiunit building, which would be an adjustment. We wanted to create very quiet units.”

He describes a silent-floor system comprising multiple layers of blown-in insulation, plywood, cellulose, concrete and sound-attenuating mats to ensure that sound does not travel between units.

Altierra also brought in designer Robin Gottlieb to work on the interior design of the units. Purchasers who bought in prior to construction were able to customize their layouts and finishes with Gottlieb. 

The three-bedroom, two full bath units have 9-foot ceilings, designer lighting, solid nickel hardware, built-in cabinetry in the in-unit laundry and contemporary kitchens and baths. Each unit has outdoor space clad in Cumaru wood, a sustainable Brazilian hardwood.

Two units left

Maple Place offers three condominiums per floor, with two penthouses on the top floor, for a total of 11 units. As of press time, all but two of the units were sold, and Rich Gloor, who is marketing the units along with Jan Raspatello of Gloor Realty, says they saw a strong interest in the building from the time the plans were finalized for units which are priced in the mid-$600,000 range and up.

“A lot of our purchasers so far have been downsizers who lived in homes in Oak Park or River Forest,” Gloor said. “This is kind of a lateral move. You’re getting spacious rooms, tons of storage and parking in the building, but you’re getting rid of home maintenance.”

Gloor says a big part of the appeal is the location. 

“It’s got the urban, suburban thing going on,” he said. “This is walkable to downtown Oak Park. You’re close to the action but not right in the heart.”

Gloor notes that the building was the first new construction in the area to cater to downsizers with the high-end finishes and conveniences they were accustomed to in their larger homes. 

“They almost live like a ranch house,” Gloor said. “The rooms are big. There are huge walk-in closets. We included storage and one heated parking space per unit, and there are additional spaces available for $15,000 and one, private two car garage still available.”

Zimmerman understands the appeal the building has for people selling their large family homes once the nest is empty.

“For most downsizers, their lives are here,” Zimmerman said. “They don’t want to leave their friends and community but they want single-floor living and an elevator.”

Artistic element

After months of construction and dealing with delays in permitting due to a variety of issues, including predicted roof snow load, there is one village requirement that both Zimmerman and Gloor talk about with a smile. 

Zimmerman says that the village requires all developers who go through the planning process to include a public art component on the building itself.

“Developers don’t necessarily have a strong artistic sense, so when Oak Park demands an artistic element, you don’t know what you’re going to get,” Zimmerman said.

For help with this vision, they turned to Chicago-based artist Anna Soltys, a Columbia College graduate who has been working on large-scale public art installations for 12 years. She came to Oak Park to see the building and get to know the neighborhood before designing her mosaic mural which will soon be installed on the buildings east wall.

“When I met with Paul and Jonathan one of the first things we talked about was the Cumaru tree,” Soltys said. “They are using its wood in the building’s design, and I researched the tree and discovered it’s a really gorgeous, oversized tree. I used it as the inspiration for the mosaic. The central part of the mosaic is a 3D rendering of the trunk of the tree.”

Soltys is working on the mural in her studio with her assistant, Hana Kulovic, and will spend about a week in August installing the mural and adding sculptural elements on site. She applauds the use of art in public buildings and thinks it’s beneficial for everyone.

“Oak Park is so amazing,” Soltys said. “There’s so much history. Down the street, you’ve got Frank Lloyd Wright and Hemingway’s homes. With new construction, there comes this element of keeping up the integrity and the history of the place. As an artist, I find that very moving. The power of what art can do has a strong influence on the community.”

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