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On a clear day, from the 13th floor patio or adjacent Skyline View Restaurant at Holley Court Terrace in Oak Park, its senior citizen residents and their guests can take in the architectural vista that is Oak Park and the expansive view of Chicago's skyline.
In 1992, the year Holley Court Terrace debuted, that was one of the intents of its Chicago-based developers, Venterra Sales and Management. For them, and a team of others, it was a five-year-plus journey to the ribbon cutting of the 13-story, 180-apartment luxury high-rise for seniors. At the time, it was the only one of its kind, says Kathleen Mullaghy, executive director at Holley Court Terrace.
"West Suburban Hospital was one of the major forces behind the development of Holley Court," she says. "I believe it was Art Replogle, a board member at the time, who apparently had the vision of putting together a retirement community in Oak Park where people who lived in Oak Park could remain here, so the village would not be losing its older adults to other communities."
Since then, local living options for seniors has grown. But, some locals would still concur that this $18 million "senior citizen healthcare complex" is still in a class of its own, especially when one considers its approach to providing services and amenities to a generation of Oak Parkers who want to age in style and comfort in their hometown, in a high-rise in the former parking lot at Harlem Avenue and Ontario Street.
Making Holley Court happen
Early on in the mix of Holley Court were the developers, their partners, West Suburban Medical Center, a Citizen's Committee, Village President Clifford Osborn — with a cadre of VOP Trustees — a number of key people in the Oak Park Planning Commission, as well as Oak Park Mall operatives, who were initially against the project.
The architectural firm of Loebl, Schlossman and Hackl, and another company, Harris Webber, who were specialists in developing and managing retirement housing, were also brought in, according to archived news clippings from the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest.
Then, a year after Holley Court debuted, West Suburban Medical Center, who owned it, decided to "get out of the senior housing business" and sold it to American Retirement Corporation, its building management company. Today, ARC owns and operates Holley Court under its new name, Brookside Senior Living.
"Some of our residents have been with us for 16 years, so as they have aged and their needs have changed, we have been responding with assisted living options, and the provision of on-site therapy services and a wide array of other programming and services," Mullaghy says.
What has changed mostly, though, is the pricing, of course. In 1992, residents paid between $1,250 to $2,600 a month to live at Holley Court, which included the apartment, plus a long-term care subsidy, and add-on items such as transportation, a valet service, utilities, and maid and laundry services.
Nowadays, a contract starts at $2,900 a month, and includes a diverse and long menu of services, including access to the nurse in a wellness center, breakfast seven days a week, and 30 meals a month, and so on.
Living long in Oak Park
Following a few predictable snafus and hiccups, the building began to rise up, and local luminary Jeanette Fields, now 92, and her husband Ellis, stood on the sideline, watching the construction.
At the time, Fields had been penning "Architectural Angles," a regular feature in Wednesday Journal, which ran through the '80s and '90s. Her byline still appears in the newspaper from time to time.
"I said to [Ellis], 'That is an attractive building, let's go look at it,' so we did and got on the waiting list," remembers Fields, who recently was one of 60 local seniors honored during Celebrating Seniors Week in Oak Park.
Not wanting to rush into anything, she finally moved to Holley Court in 2004, a year after Ellis died.
"I was living in a large Frank Lloyd Wright home, so that was a pretty hard and painful house to leave," says Fields, who has helped establish the Ernest Hemingway Foundation, as well as made many other contributions to Oak Park and Chicago. "I was moving from a fairly big house, so I asked for the biggest apartment and got a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment with a big living room and a little dining room, so I could bring along some of my Frank Lloyd Wright designed furniture."
For Irene Goren, 91, of River Forest, the idea of moving into a self-contained assisted living facility with her husband Marvin, a victim of Alzheimer's disease, became a very serious and necessary shift in life for the couple. The new, safe, secure and assisted environment became their safety net, she says.
"It was a smart move. I needed a more secure and smaller apartment for him. Living here was better for Marv, and there were things he could do here, and that was very good," she says.
When her husband passed away in 2010, she began taking advantage of the extremely active and close-knit culture of the building.
"One could be kept busy all day if you wanted to," Goren says and smiles.
Peruvian born artist and former River Forest resident Julia Loebel, 89, waited a year and a half to move into her spacious, top floor digs with a view of downtown Oak Park.
Just to see the natural beauty of the sun rising and setting on the buildings was worth the wait, says the lifetime member of the Oak Park Art League, whose paintings have hung in exhibits at the Oak Park Public Library.
"From here, you can see how close we are to everything, the Lake Theater, Austin Gardens Park, and the trains," says Carroll during a recent Friday afternoon tour of the facility. "On the 4th of July, this is the hottest ticket in town."