Best place to retire? How about Oak Park?

Opinion: Columns

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Brent Borgerson

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I'm a bit too young to retire but plenty old enough to seriously think about it. As David Pope put it so well in Wednesday Journal recently, Oak Park is a great place to raise a family. Yes, Oak Park is a great place for raising kids, but the children have grown and left home.

Where should we retire to? Florida only has two seasons; hot and hotter! I have lived in, or studied in, rural Indiana, Montana, Guatemala, and Guadalajara, Mexico, and while each place has its charms and fond memories, my four children and 12 grandkids all live in Chicago or within a hundred-mile radius of Oak Park, and we don't ever want to be very isolated from them. Some talk of moving back to Oak Park. None have bad memories of the village.

Family considerations have influenced my choice of Oak Park as a place to retire, but this isn't only factor.

Many factors that made us choose Oak Park as a place to raise kids also influence us to choose Oak Park as a place to retire. The parks and pools are great places to be in summer. You can take in a ball game, or cool off in a natural way.

There is always something going on: Shakespeare in the park, Art in the Park, Day in Our Village, Thursday Nights Out, and music in Scoville Park. Don't miss the July 4th Parade.

I must have four seasons. In spite of what media people say to make you feel miserable, the seasons are not so extreme here. I don't think there is anything more splendid than spring in Oak Park, unless it's autumn. This village is beautiful in every season. Oak Parkers seem to love flowers, and with all the trees, one can walk mostly in the shade for miles, even under the hot July sun.

Oak Park is one of the more bike-able and walk-able communities to be found. It is one of the few large communities where people still greet a stranger out walking. Greenline Wheels, Competitive Foot, and Oak Park Cyclery are just some of the businesses that cater to those enthusiasts.

Retired people can actually get by quite well in Oak Park without an auto. Groceries, gymnasiums, banks, hardware, pharmacies, doctors, dentists, hair care, bookstores, craft supplies, indeed just about anything, or any service you need is within walking distance.

Never should one be bored here. Walk or bike to the Lake Theatre, a library, a coffee shop or restaurant — or just walk! All the varied architecture and landscaping and the ever-changing seasons make for an always interesting "hike." If you get winter doldrums, saunter over to the Oak Park Conservatory. It is our favorite "mini-winter escape." Here one can bask in tropical warmth, even in the midst of a January cold snap.

As Ken T. and Dan H. from the Journal often point out, Oak Park's location and public transportation connections enable one to take advantage of all the entertainment and cultural opportunities Chicago has to offer, without the need for an auto. You can even take your bicycle on the CTA. Brookfield Zoo, a bit less than 5 miles away, can be a daunting hike, but it's an easy bike ride away, and is served by RTA and PACE. A cab ride to and from the zoo is reasonable and it's a great place to spend the day — and learn about nature to boot.

Oak Park is well served by two excellent hospitals; Rush Oak Park and West Suburban Medical Center are both well known, especially for adult and geriatric needs.

I hope we will always manage to negotiate the few stairs in our small single-story house, but if the need arises, there are many facilities for the elderly — Holley Court Terrace, the Oak Park Arms, The Oaks, Belmont Village, Mills Park Tower, and assisted living and rehab facilities. Oak Park Township offers excellent senior services: transportation, meals, case management and support. The township is an excellent resource.

An often-overlooked senior resource is the Park District of Oak Park. The parks in Oak Park are among the best for recreation and appreciating beautiful landscaping.

Property taxes are rather high here; then again, where are they really cheap? We do get good services, with a very professional police and fire department that maintain a good presence, and the village is clean and well maintained. I hope to always afford the taxes on our little south Oak Park home, and the senior tax breaks help.

I look at the taxes as "country club dues." After all, we're almost living inside a museum with so many architectural attractions and points of interest.

Yes, I have considered it carefully, and I plan to retire in Oak Park Ill. It's a great place to raise a family in and retire in.

Can't think of a better place!

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Reader Comments

17 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Marie Perkins  

Posted: June 4th, 2012 11:42 AM

Well, if you're a bird lover and the Village Board has its way, there won't be any more birds left to enjoy after they approve their slaughter of the birds tonight.

thinking about it  

Posted: June 4th, 2012 11:00 AM

Reasons to retire in OP: 1. inertia - I've lived here almost 20 years and I'm used to it. 2. proximity to Chicago - now that the kids are almost grown I can begin to think about actually going to museums etc. Reasons not to retire in OP 1. Quality of schools continues to decline 2. taxes continue to rise 3. budget cuts resulting in understaffing of the police department 4. taxes continue to rise 5. Poor leadership (village and schools) 6. taxes continue to rise

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 3rd, 2012 1:12 AM

I am retired and have lived in Oak Park. I enjoy OP but the reason I live here is that I have two daughters living in OP and downtown Chicago, and two young grandchildren that live in OP. In ten years, our big old house is going to be hard or expensive to maintain, the trusty Green and Blue lines will not be as convenient for us as they are today, and we are in a part of town with minimal shopping and shopping downtown is a hassle. We are staying but their are some senior hurdles to consider.

O from Oak APrk  

Posted: May 29th, 2012 9:59 AM

I am new to Oak Park, and understand the complaints, but weren't taxes atrocious here for many years? I mean, the retail / tax base has always been bad? I understand complaints about brick streets as a waste, but teaching school kids a second language, a language they can use almost every day? Sounds good to me. Better to pay to teach Spanish than pay for an OPRF football team w stadium lights. (I know that will upset the America / English firsters e.g. rj) I think we can have both.

Phil Pittman from Oak Park  

Posted: May 28th, 2012 7:56 PM

@Brad You're correct, falling housing prices is certainly not a unique Oak Park problem. However the property tzx bill of $15k does not do much to attract retirees. Oak Park was wonderful when our children were in school but not so great for empty nesters.


Posted: May 28th, 2012 2:21 PM

@Q. I don't know if you are aware of this, but before OP prop taxes went to the moon - A LOT of couples did exactly what Mr. Borgeson advocates - they stayed! Why? Did OP just now become "walkable"? Of course not. We had bike shops 30-50 years ago, too! Also, "the kids" could easily afford to buy a house in OP and thus their "kids" could live near their grandparents! OP's popularity was mainly based on location, location, location! We're becoming more of transient community with shallow roots.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: May 28th, 2012 12:15 PM

Unfortunately and rj, you are both correct, other then that, Oak Park would be a great place to retire. San Francisco would be nice too.


Posted: May 28th, 2012 11:51 AM

Brad - Taxation in this country is criminal, especially Oak Park property taxes despite all of OP's attributes. It does need people like you to continue feeding the beast of government. You'll see our point some day. When do you say enough - another $10-20-30K from now. Because it won't stop until you make it stop. Good luck with that.


Posted: May 28th, 2012 10:53 AM

@Brad. I disagree. OP prop taxes are much higher than the median for Cook County. Also, for years, OP elected officials told us that their "project" - like the new library, brick streets, ref for massive spending on parks, referendum to offer K-8 Spanish at D97, OPRFHS gouging us for every penny, etc - was what was determining increases in home values! Today? Oops - but the spending binge continues and prop values continue to decline. You call that "whining" - which only justifies the insanity!

Brad from Oak Park  

Posted: May 27th, 2012 9:53 PM

Other comments in here are symptoms of living in the State of Illinois or perhaps the Midwest, but nothing specific to Oak Park. The writer of the article offers specific examples of why this may be a good retirement community (walkable town, accessible to public transportation, cultural destinations within close distance) and yet others respond with generic comments that really aren't specific to Oak Park.

Brad from Oak Park  

Posted: May 27th, 2012 9:50 PM

Wow, what embarrassing whining on the part of so many people here. Is Oak Park seriously being blamed because Phil Pittman sold his house for only 60% of its 2005 value? Good Lord. The rest of the country has somehow been immune to the housing crisis, and these things only happen in OP? Also, little sympathy to be had when you offer that you've lived here 42 years. I'm guessing that 60% still left you with a nice return on the original purchase. Others whining about taxed, etc. Grow up.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: May 27th, 2012 5:51 PM

I understand how a lot of people don't like Oak Park, but it's not Oak Park you don't like, it's the people who run Oak Park, who waste money. Vote them out.


Posted: May 27th, 2012 4:28 PM

Ha! This is one of the funniest thing I have heard, sounds more like an Onion article. Personally in my early 30's and can't wait to get out. Ha!


Posted: May 25th, 2012 9:14 PM

Spouse and I will be doing the same in a couple of years. Last kid is thru with schools, but we still have another 5 or so years left of work - and then adios. Why not leave OP now? Moving twice doesn't appeal to us and we live in the eastern side of town. Translated: narrow lawns and small(er) prop taxes! We also are in no hurry to pay the insulting r.e. transfer stamps. The location for commuting is great. But a lot of the rest stinks!

Phil Pittman from Oak Park  

Posted: May 25th, 2012 8:12 PM

Oak Park is hardly an ideal place to retire. After 42 years here we have just sold our home, for 60% of its 2005 value. Our three children were smart enough not to settle in Illinois. We are moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico where you can get a new 2BR 1.5Bath a/c apt with all appliances for a rent equal to half the rent of an Oak Park studio apt. The politics are slightly different than Illinois. NM has a Conservative Republican Hispanic Woman as its governor.

rj from Oak Park  

Posted: May 25th, 2012 5:16 PM

Brent, some things never change. Still, wide lawns and narrow minds. Try to sell your home when you've been property taxed out of the market. We've been here 40 years & if it weren't for my 99 yr old mother living with us we'd be long gone. People are voting with their feet - no choice but to retire from the blue states. Let the liberals cannibalize themselves with their over spending and over taxing. They have no awareness of the damage they're creating for future generations.


Posted: May 23rd, 2012 5:18 PM

OP, and Illinois in general, for that matter, are a great place to retire if you either have $1 billion in the bank or you are broke. Anyone hoping to stretch their retirement dollars would be better served to look elsewhere. With one of the highest debt to income ratios, retirees would be wise to get out of IL. They'd be smart to get out of Oak Park too, where taxes and entitlement spending are even worse. Go where the weather is good and you can live off efforts of a life of hard work

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