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Whether you’re a fan of the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation (OPEDC) or not, chances are you like its economic development director, Viktor Schrader. Affable and approachable, Schrader has spent a decade with OPEDC, welcoming developers to Oak Park and bringing businesses to the community.

“I’m really proud of the work,” Schrader told Wednesday Journal. “It’s been a pleasure and a lot of fun.”

As the year draws to a close, so does Schrader’s time in Oak Park. Starting in January, Schrader will be working for the city of Medford, Mass., as its first ever economic development director.

“I’m really excited,” he said. “The city is growing. There’s a really bright future.”

Schrader will work directly with the mayor of Medford as a municipal employee, recruiting new business and working with developers. Medford is also closer to where his family lives.

As exciting as the job is for Schrader, it is one met with bittersweet feelings and tough goodbyes.

“I’ve been on the struggle bus here, the last week or so,” said Schrader, who called himself a softy. “I’m visibly crying on Zoom calls.”

Those bittersweet feelings are felt not only by Schrader but those who have worked with him directly during his 10 years with OPEDC.

“Viktor is always the consummate professional – exclamation point,” said David King, leading local real estate broker. “Just a great guy, and he truly poured his heart and soul into selling the village of Oak Park.”

King said he “truly wishes him all the best in his future endeavors,” but that Schrader’s absence in Oak Park will be felt acutely.

“I will really miss my friend,” King said.

In a statement to Wednesday Journal, OPEDC Executive Director John Lynch called Schrader an “incredible asset” not only to the OPEDC but to the entire village of Oak Park.

“He always took the time to talk with shop owners, landlords, and even concerned residents and everyone knew that Vik would help in any way he could,” Lynch said.

“Not only was he outstanding in his economic development role, but he continually offered advice, made introductions, and otherwise supported local business in a friendly way.”

While Schrader’s innate likability – the man even fosters cats – and dedication to the village make it tough for many to see him go, those attributes also make it hard not to feel anything but delighted for him as he takes this step in his career.

“We will all miss having Vik here in Oak Park, and I couldn’t be more excited for him as he takes this next step in his career,” said Lynch.

Schrader was instrumental in attracting more than $800 million worth of new investment in Oak Park, according to Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb.

Abu-Taleb believes Schrader embodied the values of Oak Park while having the ability to express those values to new investors and connect personally with local businesses.

“Everybody knows Viktor. Everyone loves Viktor, and I wish him the best,” said Abu-Taleb.

Projects Schrader’s proud of most

Preparing to leave Oak Park for Medford, Mass., Viktor Schrader shared his favorite moments and the projects he’s most proud of accomplishing during his tenure with the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation (OPEDC).

“First and foremost, I’m proud of the revitalization that has occurred on Harrison Street, Madison Street, and in downtown Oak Park over the last five to six years,” said Schrader, adding that each took enormous effort and leadership.

“This work typically takes decades, but because of a unique level of collective effort by village leadership and staff, the OPEDC, and dedicated partners in the community and private sector, we’ve been able to usher in really positive change in a relatively short period of time.”

Other highlights for Schrader include the 37-unit affordable housing development nearly complete at 801 S. Oak Park Ave., as well as the District House condominium complex at Lake and Euclid – the former site of Tasty Dog – for its “stand-out” design.

“The brewery boom also comes to mind,” said Schrader. “I worked very closely with all four local breweries – One Lake Brewing, Oak Park Brewing Company, Kinslahger Brewing Company and Wild Onion Tavern.”

Bringing beer to Oak Park was a top priority when he began working with the OPEDC, according to Schrader.

 “I think the village board at the time even said that when I was introduced at my first council meeting,” said Schrader.

Last but not least, according to Schrader, are the 100-plus small businesses he worked with over the years with finding space, understanding the market, developing business models and landing financing.

“Many of these folks are now close friends. I’ve met their families. [We] talked through tough business and life decisions,” said Schrader. “They know who they are, and I’ll miss them dearly.”

Stacey Sheridan

 

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