South Oak Park the new Bucktown? Local developer says yes

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By Lacey Sikora

Contributing Reporter

While South Oak Park has seen a relative building boom for several years, local developer Mark Meagher of Maher Development thinks the south side of the village is ready to command seven figure prices and bring in families who might love an urban neighborhood.

He tears down smaller homes and constructs newer, larger homes that appeal to young families. With exteriors inspired by the work of Oak Park historic home stalwarts E. E. Roberts and the Gunderson brothers and with interior features like mudrooms and open floor plans, Meagher says his houses and the vibrant neighborhood appeal to a generation of buyers who are savvy about what they want and where they want it.

Meagher, who developed properties in the city before moving his business and family to Oak Park, says that South Oak Park bears a lot of resemblance to the hot Chicago neighborhoods of Logan Square and Bucktown, with one critical difference: price point. 

For instance, Meagher's latest project, 1114 S. Scoville Ave., is currently on the market for $1 million.  He says that at 4,500 square feet and with four finished floors of living space, it's a lot of space for the money. "This is a real bargain. In Logan Square, the house would easily be $1.3 million."

Real estate broker, Danny Glick of @properties, who recently sold a Maher Development house at 1112 S. Clinton Ave. for $980,000 and has seen a lot of interest in the Scoville house, says that the price point is making it easy to sell Meagher's houses. "North of the highway, you'd probably pay another $300,000-500,000 for these houses, so I think that's a good value proposition."

 

South Oak Park cachet

Meagher says South Oak Park has seen business development that draws in young families who might like the walkable neighborhoods of the city. "Harrison Street has blown up and now resembles an established area in Chicago, like Bucktown. There are so many businesses on Harrison, Roosevelt Road and South Oak Park Avenue that buyers can enjoy," he says pointing to Kinslahger Brewing Company, Bodhi Thai, Culvers, Wire, Hole in the Wall, District Kitchen and Tap, and Avenue Ale House.

Glick also sees the renaissance of Roosevelt Road as a boon to buyers. Alcuin Montessori is constructing a new middle school on the street, and he says, "There's a bunch of things happening here that have huge appeal."

As a resident himself, Meagher knows the neighborhood benefits from great parks and schools and an easy commute on the Blue Line and I-290. Tax relief is also a part of the equation. He says, "You might not get a sprawling lot with stately homes all around you, but you won't get the taxes to go with that either. South Oak Park offers some tax relief to buyers." Anecdotally, he sees taxes on a $900,000 sale in South Oak Park capping out at roughly $12,000 a year, a stark contrast to taxes on the north side of the village.

 

Ripe for development

One of the keys to Meagher's success is finding smaller homes that qualify as tear downs, something he says makes sense in South Oak Park, where few homes are in protected historic districts. 

"This area needs development and should welcome development. These old houses need so much work to improve, and it's not always worth it to put all of that money into them."

According to Meagher, many of the homes in the area have little architectural significance and are already in a state of disrepair, making the lots ripe for development.

Real estate broker Glick says that buyers in the area are ready to embrace new construction, even in historic Oak Park. "Some of the potential buyers are coming from the city, and some are coming from Oak Park. There's a lot of interest from people already living in Oak Park but who want new construction. In some parts of Oak Park, you just can't get new construction," he notes, citing the prohibition on tear downs in historic districts.

Glick says that there is a class of buyers looking for the combination of the small-town aspect of Oak Park and the amenities of new construction. New construction not only eliminates worries about about old-house issues with plumbing or electrical work. He says newer homes also offer the floorplans and creature comforts that many families want in a home.

Newer houses' floor plans offer more flow and openness than older houses. Architect Bob Bell, who has been working locally for 50 years, has helped Meagher come up with designs that fit the vernacular of the neighborhood, and he points out the advantage of building new in the Scoville project which has an open-concept first-floor. 

"One of the advantages when you build a new house is that you can span from exterior wall to exterior wall without a load-bearing wall in the middle. Now you have trusses so that you can open up these rooms."

Meagher says there are many creature comforts that just don't make sense to add to older homes. He points to newer insulation that offers sound proofing and better heating and cooling results. Upgrades like radiant heat flooring or central air conditioning can be expensive retrofits.

Other new house amenities that can be expensive to add to older homes? Master suites, basements with nine-foot ceilings and large closets.  Meagher says that from a construction standpoint, it is just more efficient to build these when building new. 

"You can get a thoroughness when you build new, that's hard to get through rehab." He adds that with quality new construction, buyers should get 10 to 11 years of peace of mind and not need to worry about a system breaking down or requiring repair.

At the end of the day, Meagher thinks that the neighborhood is ready for a continued stream of new homes and says his investors agree that the ceiling for new house pricing is far beyond his recently garnered $980,000 for 1112 S. Clinton.  "South Oak Park has more flavor, and more of an urban and hip feeling than other parts of town. Things survive and thrive here."

Reader Comments

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Javier Abasta from Forest Park   

Posted: April 25th, 2019 6:33 AM

I've passed this house almost everyday to get to work and to say that he is a professional would be an understatement. His attention to detail and his passion for building is amazing. I can't walt to see how many other houses around South Oak Park he revitalizes. I'm a homeowner in Oak Park and I don't see anything wrong with him doing anything in my neighborhood. I appreciate the fact that he is rebuilding these homes.

Mark Ruehl  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 9:22 PM

This seems to be more of a self-serving promotional article than responsible journalism. Did it sneak by the editor, or is the editor's judgment clouded by a recent move to Berwyn?

Kevin Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 8:54 PM

Mark did a few projects on our own south Oak Park home. My only regret was that I wish I could have had him renovate the whole house.

Michael Nevins  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 8:45 PM

Did I accidentally go to onion.com or nationallampoon.com? A $1M home in OP will have taxes "roughly $12,000 a year"? A home at 1114 SOUTH Scoville for $1M?!? Really? Perhaps certain home builders make "great" homes, but I can't help but if they are this, well, "off" with simple math........

Arturo Abasta from Chicago  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 6:32 PM

Maher does great work! The homes speak for themselves!

Karen Barg Baldwin  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 11:50 AM

Agree-- Tax estimates way off. We live in a 3 bedroom 1.5 bath home and our taxes are over $15k, and that is with multiple and consistent appeals.

Robert A. Bell  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 11:34 AM

As the architect for one of Maher's new houses and one of the additions and total remodeling to another, I think they fit into the overall fabric and scale of the neighborhood, even though they are taller than the 1 1/2 story houses nearby. The small neglected dated "fixer-upper" houses which they replace would be extremely difficult to economically remodel and enlarge. The new large houses have the potential of "house-sharing" (roomer "housemates") which provide affordable housing opportunities. Unfortunately this is not encouraged by the Village of Oak Park, since the new zoning ordinance does not have a catagory for this type of single family use. It is done, but mostly "under-the-radar" so single and older residents can stay in their homes; there are so many angles of house sharing, but these large new residents lend themselves to this type of arrangement. . .

Dave Slade from Oak Park  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 10:44 AM

And, when a $900K house goes up in a neighborhood with no houses that value, guess what starts happening to the comps on the neighbors' taxes? You guessed it.

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: April 23rd, 2019 11:39 PM

FWIW, it's a fact that when my late wife and I sold our south Oak Park home in 2005, the real estate taxes on it soared from around $6,000 to just over $12,000. That's 14 years ago, on a house that sold for $349,000. 931 S. Wesley. Look it up. So... a $900,000 house "capping out at roughly $12,000 a year" is utter nonsense.

Cara Carriveau  

Posted: April 23rd, 2019 10:55 PM

I've known Mark Meagher for more than a decade. I've been inside this rehabs and his work is top notch. I've also seen the homes he's replaced and it is safe to say he has been pivotal in the South Oak Park resurgence. His point about not having to worry about mechanicals in a proper rehab is super important, as I'm sure most OP homeowners would agree. It's also nice to see fantastic businesses booming on Harrison. South Oak Park feels far more vibrant than it did when we moved here 15 years ago.

Mike Mohr  

Posted: April 23rd, 2019 9:40 PM

House looks great

Laura Maychruk  

Posted: April 23rd, 2019 9:31 PM

I'm thrilled that South OP is finally getting noticed and is no longer the stepchild...

Lisa Saxon Reed  

Posted: April 23rd, 2019 9:03 PM

"Anecdotally, he sees taxes on a $900,000 sale in South Oak Park capping out at roughly $12,000 a year." If this is true, we need to get Kaegi, et al on this because my slice of S OP heaven is worth a lot less for similar taxes.

Roy Schuster  

Posted: April 23rd, 2019 7:27 PM

Just don't expect the developers to shovel the snow in front of their development projects during the winter.

Maria Meachum  

Posted: April 23rd, 2019 7:08 PM

So wrong about the expected taxes though. We pay almost 14K on our house which is very large but valued at 500k.

Krissy Bee from Oak Park  

Posted: April 23rd, 2019 5:00 PM

This is so irritating. I know of new builds like this on most blocks around me in south OP. They are sitting empty. If they'd have gone to families at a reasonable price our neighborhood would be MUCH better off. I'm not anti-progress, but I'm anti-elitist-empty-house-on-my-block.

Peter R. Ibarra from Oak Park  

Posted: April 23rd, 2019 2:31 PM

It could be that the low property taxes on the building are because it was being assessed at a "vacant" rate (which will go away as soon as the house is occupied). Otherwise, it makes little sense to me.

Jeanine Pedersen  

Posted: April 23rd, 2019 2:17 PM

The taxes *were* $9k. That reflected a assessment value of $27,554. The current assessment value (2018) is $80,910. That means the current taxes are significantly higher than $9k. That took me all of three minutes to look up. Shame on you Wednesday Journal for not doing any homework! Anyone who wants to look it up, the PIN is 16-17-117-023-0000

Dave Slade from Oak Park  

Posted: April 23rd, 2019 1:33 PM

So should that follow that the taxes on my 1500 sq ft piece of paradise that have taxes currently over $9K, should actually be a little over $5K? Guess when we get reassessed next year, I anticipate a big drop in taxes. Woo-hoo!!!

Carolyn Cullen  

Posted: April 23rd, 2019 1:28 PM

Does he see the irony of his last sentence, "Things survive and thrive here"? Like all the wonderful old houses he is replacing? Coincidence that all three overpriced monstrosities in the photos are identical? It reminds me of the pre-recession McMansion plague that ruined the character of so many areas. This does NOT help OP's need for affordable housing and the people who want to heat and cool 4500 sq ft sadly don't usually have earth-friendly concerns on their minds.

Krissy Bee from Oak Park  

Posted: April 23rd, 2019 12:49 PM

I'm with Josh on this one. $12K for $900,000?? In what world?? The houses near us in that range are more in the 20-22K tax bracket.

Paul Clark  

Posted: April 23rd, 2019 12:49 PM

I recognize that these real estate stories are the features in the part of the print paper that attracts a lot of advertising, but did the WJ consider adding at least a sentence from a property tax authority that a house worth $1 million in OP will never have a property tax bill of $12,000? Would the WJ let stand unchallenged a builder's comment that his houses have zero energy costs or self-cleaning windows?

Josh Vanderberg  

Posted: April 23rd, 2019 12:27 PM

" Anecdotally, he sees taxes on a $900,000 sale in South Oak Park capping out at roughly $12,000 a year, a stark contrast to taxes on the north side of the village." Is 'anecdotally' code for 'lying'? Come, 02-06 houses in South OP (which are on the larger end) valued around $500k pay $15k plus in taxes. Taxes scale with valuation, you do the math.

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