Not a bad place to raise a family - 12/16/2010
I have grew up in the Oak Park area and have lived in other cities in the country.
Oak Park is located outside of the city of Chicago. Though located reasonably close to the city life of Chicago, Oak Park is actually worth a closer look for those interested in architecture and the arts. There are several areas in Oak Park that have been designated as historic districts, which are rich in Victorian "Painted Ladies," Craftsman, and prairie style homes. Its downtown area has revitalized and is attracting "urban professionals." I also think it is fair to say that there is diversity among its residents and is liberal enough to support, if not welcome people of "alternative" lifestyles. Its residents also seem to be very liberal in their views and eco-friendly, where recycling is mandatory. Oak Park is home to authors, writers and musicians as well as corporate professionals. Notable past residents of Oak Park include Ernest Hemingway and famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.
It takes about 26 minutes on the green line to get into the city. If using Metra train, it takes about 10-15 minutes. So, if you work in the city, or just like going to the city for recreational activities, it is reasonably accessible from Oak Park via public transportation. There are bus routes than run down major streets in Oak Park that can get you to the train stops as well.
If you are single and plan to move to Oak Park, I suggest living near the downtown Oak Park area or Oak Park Avenue (near the train), as those areas are close to the train and you would be within walking distance to bars, restaurants, shops and other entertainment. There are plenty of rentals and condos in those areas, though parking can be a pain if a spot is not included. However, there are places where you can rent a spot in a public garage.
If you have a family, Oak Park has a decent suburban family vibe. The public library system is pretty good and the main library has many activities geared for children and families. There are also several festivals that go on during the Summer that are family oriented as well. However, the school system in Oak Park is sketchy. I don't think it is terrible, but, I don't think it is fabulous either. The public high school used to be ranked in the top 5 of the state, but in the last 20 years it has fallen considerably. I have found that resources are dedicated more for students that are struggling than anything else. If you have a gifted child, the high school does offer advanced coursework and AP classes. However, if your child is "average," they might not get as much attention. There are private school options for those who prefer that route, which are pretty good.
The Oak Park government is odd. In fact my father refers to it as "the people's republic of Oak Park." There are odd laws in place like not being able to back into a public parking spot. People selling their homes are not allowed to put up for sale signs in their front yards. If you want to do anything to your home, you have to get it cleared with the village, especially if you live in a historic area. If you live in a historic area, you cannot alter the outside of your home, meaning, you cannot add onto it or change the structure (painting, routine maintenance, replacing windows are ok). For example, if your home does not have a porch, you cannot add one. However, you can do what you want to the back of your home, as long as it is not visible from the street.
Oak Park is located in Cook County, where sales tax is very high. However, Oak Park is not far from neighboring counties with lower sales tax rates. This means, if you plan to purchase that expensive appliance, you can drive about 20 minutes outside of the county and purchase it for less. Speaking of taxes, Oak Park's housing taxes are quite high. They are so high that they are always a topic of discussion amongst residents. I have seen taxes range from $6000 to $12000+ on single family homes with yards. The tax rate will depend on the size of the home and lot and the area of Oak Park the property is located. Housing prices themselves are reasonable for the area, probably to offset the tax rate!
It's not a bad place to live and I appreciated growing up in a culturally diverse area. Growing up, I frequented museums and had plenty of exposure to the performing arts. Another positive aspect is that it is not a "cookie cutter" suburban area at all. The streets are tree-lined and homes are definitely not carbon copies of each other, like many western suburbs. In fact, I find the strip malls and sprawling subdivisions and "big-box" stores of the western suburbs, rather contrived. [read more...]
Don't believe the hype - 5/5/2010
If you don't know any better you might think Oak Park is perfect. However, if you are like me and have other places as a comparison, you know better. I will say that the tree-lined streets and architecture are beautiful. Being fairly close to Chicago is a plus (although whoever mentioned it was 10 minutes away must always sleep through half of the commute, it's 20 minutes, check the train schedule) and the schools are supposedly fairly good. Now that you've heard the main positives, here are the negatives: Crime, particularly theft, is a problem; the village govt. is mismanaged and in financial trouble; the village govt. is also FAR too controlling; don't get me started on the ridiculous lack of parking and overabundance of parking tickets (can't park in front of your house at night); property taxes are oppressive; while it's easy to get between Oak Park and downtown Chicago by train, nothing else is convenient and traffic is almost always bad on 290, the main highway through Oak Park. If you want to go shopping, you have to either drive downtown or to further out suburbs, since there are few stores here. Some people brag about the independent shops. There are a few cool ones, but I haven't found a town yet that can't say the same. Long story short, it's a great place to visit, but get me the hell out of here!! [read more...]
Oak Park Liveability - 5/5/2009
Oak Park, Illinois, is a wonderful community that has a lot to offer to families wishing to live close to Chicago but not in it. It is a community that has pride in its sense of community. It is diverse (ethnically, politically, economically, and in other ways) and active (from organized art fairs to local block parties). Of course, the home are older and charming and the pleached streets and alley-based garages make it a pictureasque setting. The schools are great (our son attends Lincoln Elementary and has been blessed by skilled and dedicated teachers year after year). We live in what is considered "South Oak Park" (south of the 290) and we consider it, especially our area that is west of Oak Park Avenue, a hidden jem.
Oak Park has its drawbacks, too. It is expensive and it is "land-locked" (i.e., because it is so centrally-located, it is hard to get out of the Chicago area from it).[read more...]
Oak Park is a Great Place to Live! - 9/27/2006
I've been living in Oak Park, IL since June of this year. It has been a very pleasant experience so far! It is located 10 minutes outside of Chicago, yet it is a slower pace and a peaceful place to be. There is a great deal of diversity here--in terms of ethnicities.
It is a great place to raise a family and the schools are outstanding from what I hear--many Pulitzer Prize winners have come from OPRF High School. Also, the aesthetics of the village are pleasing to the eye. They have lots of trees and a great deal of greenery for someone to enjoy. It is very historic...many old buildings dating from the early 1900s or even earlier than that!
Finally, I can not forget to mention that it is the birthplace of Ernest Hemingway. Although he was not crazy about Oak Park, Oak Park is crazy about the fact that they are his birthplace! There is a museum dedicated to him, and many special collections can be found about him at the Oak Park Public Library.
If you're every passing through the Chicagoland area, make a stop at Oak Park![read more...]