In a town known for its architecture, new developments can receive a lot of scrutiny and are often compared to vintage buildings that have stood the test of time. In Oak Park, vintage buildings with their brick and stone facades and tile roofs speak of another era –one before central air conditioning and garage parking.
While some new buildings lean towards to modern-end of the spectrum with steel and glass construction, a look around town shows that at least one new development went with a classic exterior, updating but complementing its vintage neighbors.
New on the market is a nine-unit building at 1024 Washington Blvd., which recently recorded its first post-construction sale. The block masonry building, called The Cheshire, has custom limestone and brick exterior that lends an old-world style to the new development.
Zak Knebel, of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Chicago, who is marketing the condominiums with Camille Hoover, states that little details distinguish the units from cookie-cutter condos elsewhere.
“The ceiling heights are nine feet,” Knebel said. “The doors are eight feet tall, and the windows are German-engineered tilt and turn windows, which allow owners to really open up the space.”
Hoover points out that the units are flooded with light.
“On a clear day, you can see the city,” she said.
There are eight units with three bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms, and one bottom floor unit that has two bedroom and two bathrooms. Of the three-bedroom units, the four south-facing units measure 1,770 square feet, and the four north-facing units measure 2,060 square feet. The three-bedroom units are priced at $700,000 and the two-bedroom unit at $595,000.
The open kitchens include Wolf ranges and large islands. The living rooms include gas fireplaces and open to terraces. Each condo comes with in-unit laundry and one parking space.
Linda Rooney, of RE/MAX in the Village, is listing a vintage condo at 322 N. Marion St. for $294,000. The brick building was constructed in 1919 and sits within the Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District. The building has seven units, two on each floor, and one garden unit.
Rooney says the three-bedroom, two-bathroom unit, just feels like Oak Park.
“It has all those architectural details like cove moldings, arched doorways, a butler’s pantry and hardwood floors,” she said.
Steve Nasralla, of Compass, says that a vintage condominium in Oak Park has some attributes that just can’t be replicated today. One of his recent listings (now being leased) inside 333 S. Oak Park Ave., features a stone façade and plenty of vintage details.
“It’s not sterile. It’s got character,” Nasralla said. “It’s truly a jewel of an Oak Park vintage condo.”
The condo has leaded glass windows and beamed ceilings in the living room.
“You wouldn’t have a building like that created today,” Nasralla said. “It’s from another era.”
Knebel states that the Cheshire is unique in the area because there just are not a lot of luxury, boutique buildings in Oak Park. Hoover points out that while vintage condominiums abound and have plenty of charming details, it is not common to find a building with elevator access.
One of the draws of 333 S. Oak Park Ave. according to Nasralla, is that it is one of the few vintage condo buildings in the village that has elevator service to all floors.
“A lot of people looking in Oak Park want vintage, square footage, and an elevator,” Nasralla said. “People want to be able to age in place and have older family members visit.”
Rooney notes that while older buildings might not usually have elevators, in the case of the Marion Street unit she’s listing, there are only a few steps up to the first-floor unit, and the parking space that comes with the unit is just steps from the back door.
She says that at roughly 1,400 square feet, the unit has enough room for guests and an office space, and says that one advantage of the vintage building is that it was built at time when formal dining rooms were prized, so the large formal dining room allows a downsizing buyer to continue to entertain family and friends.
Rooney says much of the interest in the condo has come from those who are downsizing from a larger home. While the condo comes with parking, she notes that because of its heart-of-town location, a buyer could park their car and walk to restaurants and shopping, something that’s appealing to those entering a new stage in life.
Knebel and Hoover say that they’ve seen a variety of buyers who are interested in the units at The Cheshire. Many are downsizing from larger homes in River Forest or Oak Park, some are moving from the city and some already live in the area but are looking to upgrade their square footage and lifestyle.
Nasralla remarks that with the larger vintage condos and the newer construction, it is not uncommon to find higher assessments and higher property taxes, and that combination tends to keep these units from being appealing to buyers looking for a starter home in the suburbs.
He says condos are perfect for someone who travels a lot whether for work or pleasure, or for people who are retired, noting they can just lock the door and leave without having to worry.