The Changing Face of Downtown Oak Lawn

Cathy Murray can remember a very different downtown Oak Lawn from the one she sees today. “We used to be a town that people drove through on their way to the country in Orland Park,” says the 25-year resident of the south suburb. “People would say, “Oak Lawn? Where’s that?” But now I hear, “Oh, Oak Lawn! That’s a nice place.””

A sales consultant for Prairie Town Center, a new six-story building of 70 condominiums to be built just southwest of 95th Street and Cook Avenue in downtown Oak Lawn, Murray has watched the area transform in recent years from dull to dynamic.

“There never used to be condos in downtown Oak Lawn,” she recalls. “Now people can see themselves living here, shopping and dining here.”

As new, urban/suburban-style residential developments appear in Oak Lawn’s business district, the area is also becoming lively with popular stores and restaurants. People living in downtown Oak Lawn can walk to Freshline Grocery, Starbucks Coffee, Potbelly Sandwich Works, Jimmy John’s Gourmet Subs, Cold Stone Creamery and Hollywood Video, among other restaurants and businesses. More shopping is on the way; construction has begun on an 18,000-square-foot retail center that will accompany Prairie Town Center between the homes and 95th Street.

“The center of town is a lot more beautiful now than it used to be,” says Ed Folliard, Oak Lawn Village Manager and a 47-year resident. “There’s more greenery now, with the new park right across the street from where Prairie Town Center will be. During the summer we have concerts on the green there. Now people can live, shop, eat and do all the things they like to do, right here within walking distance.”

Prairie Town Center and the nearby Arbor Court condominiums at 96th Street and 51st Avenue are joint ventures of Chicago-based builder and developer Morningside Group and Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.-based Mid-America Development Partners. Morningside Group also served as program manager for the Village of Oak Lawn in building a new Metra station just north of Arbor Court and an adjacent municipal parking structure with more than 800 spaces.

“Metra trains stop here more often now than they used to, and that’s really helped with Oak Lawn’s growth,” Murray says. “It has become much easier to get to downtown Chicago. Walking from home to the train and then heading into the city for a Wednesday matinee at the Cadillac Theater is a possibility now.”

Murray says she has seen many empty-nester buyers who are selling their homes in Oak Lawn but don’t want to leave their town. “We’re also seeing younger buyers who want a taste of the urban lifestyle but prefer not to live in the city. They say, “It will be great. I won’t have to use my car as much.””

Buyers are realizing they can enjoy many of the benefits of urban living in downtown Oak Lawn, but without big city prices. They mention how convenient the location is for getting to places in different directions. Interstate-294 is two miles away, and Midway Airport is a 20-minute drive from downtown Oak Lawn. Since starting sales in September of 2006, Prairie Town Center is already more than 65 percent sold. The building will feature a brick-and-stone façade, and all residences will have private balconies.

Homes range in size from 844 square feet to 1,461 square feet and have either one bedroom and one-and-a-half baths, or two bedrooms and two baths. Base prices for remaining residences at Prairie Town Center are from $184,900 to $315,900. One heated, indoor parking space and individual storage lockers are included. Exterior parking is also available.

Standard features at Prairie Town Center rival those found in pricier condominiums in the city. Kitchens have furniture-quality, 42-inch upper cabinets. Baths feature cultured-marble tops in a variety of colors, and buyers can choose from a selection of vanity styles and finishes. Residences have nine-foot ceilings in all living spaces, per plan; and walk-in closets or dressing rooms in master bedrooms, per plan.

Groundbreaking for Prairie Town Center is scheduled for the first quarter of 2007, with first move-ins expected in the spring of 2008.

Arbor Court has recently opened a furnished and decorated model for viewing. The five-story courtyard building includes 84 homes in 12 distinct floors plans. Five floor plans are sold out. Remaining residences at Arbor Court range in size from 1,338 square feet to 1,591 square feet, and have either two bedrooms and two baths, or two bedrooms and two baths plus study. Arbor Court is approximately 85 percent sold, with 13 homes currently available. List prices for the remaining homes, all of which include upgrades, range from $282,900 to $317,900.

Located on the fourth floor, the decorated model showcases Arbor Court’s 1,407-square-foot “Edison” floor plan. The home has two bedrooms and two baths, an open kitchen and great room, and a recessed corner balcony overlooking the building’s landscaped courtyard and the single-family homes along 96th Street.

Standard features at Arbor Court include 9-foot ceilings in all living spaces, per plan; kitchens with furniture-quality cabinetry in a variety of styles and finishes; baths with furniture-quality vanities in a choice of styles and finishes, and cultured-marble vanity tops in a variety of colors; in-unit laundry facilities and individually controlled, gas forced-air heating and electric central air conditioning. All homes at Arbor Court are pre-wired for cable TV and high-speed Internet connections. Large, individual storage lockers are located on each floor of the building for added convenience. A heated, indoor parking space is included with each home.

Arbor Court’s exterior features a brick-and-stone façade, and a Spanish style, red-tile roof. A stylish lobby with a cable-TV-monitored intercom to screen visitors and a resident-exclusive fitness center are on the main floor.

“Part of the reason for Arbor Court’s popularity is that the building is bringing a new lifestyle experience to the suburb of Oak Lawn,” said David Strosberg, Morningside Group’s president and CEO. “People seem to appreciate that they can enjoy an urban lifestyle without leaving their town.”

“When the building opens and people start moving in, we’re going to see the complete transformation of downtown Oak Lawn,” Murray says. “Arbor Court and Prairie Town Center are creating a whole new experience here. People are excited about it.”

The Prairie Town Center Info Center is located at 5239 West 95th Street in Oak Lawn. Hours of operation are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; and Sunday, 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed
Tuesdays. For more information, please call (708) 857-2900, or visit the Web site

The Arbor Court model is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; and Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed Tuesdays. For a tour and more information, please visit the Arbor Court Info Center, at 5239 West 95th Street. Call (708) 857-2900 or visit

Click here to visit the Prairie Town Center website!

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