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Optima® Voices: Interview with Jodi Gabler, General Manager at Optima Sonoran Village®

Optima® Voices: Conversations with Our Property Teams is a series that brings you closer to the individuals who make our communities thrive. Through these interviews, we’re shedding light on the dedicated staff behind the seamless operation of Optima’s properties, highlighting their passion, experiences, and the personal touches they bring to enhancing the living experience for residents. Join us as we explore the stories of those who deliver — day in and day out — the quality of living that makes Optima communities extraordinary. Today, we’re talking with Jodi Gabler, General Manager at Optima Sonoran Village® whose role highlights her deep connection to both Optima® and the broader community.

“I’ve just celebrated six years here at Optima Sonoran Village®,” explains Jodi.  “I cannot believe it’s been that long! I came from a long career working in residential property management across Arizona, and from the beginning, I understood that joining the Optima® team was going to be very different.

Optima Sonoran Village® had been open for a year when I was hired. It was the first rental property for Optima®, which at the time had a long history of successful condominium projects. From the beginning, I understood that my role was going to be helping make this particular property a success, while also helping build a unique property management platform that could be activated across future projects. In other words, I was signing on to create a new level of property management that the Scottsdale and Arizona markets hadn’t seen.”

Jodi continues. “Part of what attracted me to Optima® was their emerging business model, based upon a commitment to holding properties. It was just so refreshing to me and I really responded to the emphasis on building for the long haul. Great modernist design, quality materials, excellent construction, superb landscaping, amenities galore and exemplary service. And on the service side, I was being asked to help establish an entirely new approach to property management.

That’s where my Optima Sonoran Village® journey began.”

“We’ve all learned so much since I stepped into my role,” Jodi says. “In the early days at Optima Sonoran Village®, we identified several areas for growth in both vacancy reduction and the customer experience. The whole team came together to understand the root causes, which allowed us to put policies and procedures into place to deliver consistent service and make sure we were communicating well with residents — and with each other. And once we made these commitments, things quickly began to improve. We also came to realize that if we were going to make Optima® Sonoran Village and our other communities standout, we needed to embrace our unique approaches and philosophies. The process of focusing on what makes Optima® special has been a huge part of our continued success.

Much of the work I do every day comes down to embracing flexibility and being open. I think about it as ‘organized chaos’ because it requires the team to always be ready for change — particularly types of change that improve the quality of living for our residents.”

“I take great pride in how we continue to elevate the programming for residents at Optima Sonoran Village®,” Jodi shares, “and really focus on delivering a lifestyle experience that supports the community. We see such great engagement in popular events like our casino and bingo nights, paint-and-sip, and weekend brunches with live music, for example. And then we also see the kinds of neighborliness that forms as people socialize at the pool and dog park, or work out together in the fitness center. The design of the amenity spaces is ideal for gathering and our residents take full advantage.

We also love when our residents jump in to organize regular events that cater to the interests of smaller groups, like the monthly Book Club and informal professional meet-ups.”

Jodi reflects, “In recent months, I’ve been involved in onboarding a number of new team members, which includes talking about Optima®’s core values. As I reflect on our values, I realize that the one that resonates the most with me is, “Do the right thing.” It’s just something that always hits home with me. When I’m making decisions, I find myself asking, “What’s the right thing for everybody, not just for me? And am I willing to go the extra distance or work harder to get there?” I feel fortunate to have a thought process that guides me through every kind of decision.

I look back on these six years at Optima Sonoran Village® and think about what I’ve learned. I’d say the greatest gift has been understanding what it means to focus on progress, not perfection.  Early on, I was always critical and impatient about things I wanted to change. I’ve come to appreciate how slowing down actually leads to lasting change, not a quick fix. So with patience and perspective, I’m able to appreciate what I’m doing today and also see what’s down the road. And that new insight makes me proud to be part of a company and a team where I can make a difference.”

 

Discover Optima®’s Commercial Tenants: Kimberly Mack, SKIN Laser & MedSpa

At Optima®, we are passionate about fostering a vibrant community where enterprises thrive alongside our residents, creating a dynamic living experience. In this installment of “Discover Optima’s Commercial Tenants,” we sat down with Kimberly Mack, Owner and Esthetician at SKIN Laser & MedSpa, to share her thoughts about how her business brings the fusion of luxury living and wellness services to Optima Signature®.

Kim shares, “I moved to Chicago in 2019 from Florida and moved into Optima Signature® as a resident. I’m a licensed aesthetician and had been working in a medical spa in Wicker Park when Covid happened and the spa closed. When things began to open up again in 2020, I considered my options and happened upon the business suites here on the seventh level in the building, and pursued a lease of one of the spaces to set up my own medspa.

After nearly four years, I love the practice I’ve established. I have wonderful clients and Optima Signature® is also an incredible place to live. I’m able to offer a range of services, including skin resurfacing, peels, facials, RF microneedling, and I’m fortunate to have been voted “best in Chicago” for in 2022 and 2023 is laser hair removal!”

Credit: SKIN Laser & MedSpa

Kim continues, “I’ve never built a business before, and the building management was incredibly eager to help promote my spa when I started. They threw a great “grand opening” party and promoted the business with residents in the building with flyers in the elevators and business cards in the Welcome Bags for new residents.”

What started as a personal business endeavor has grown into a valuable amenity for the residents of Optima Signature®. “Many of my clients are from the building itself. They love the convenience of just taking an elevator to their appointments,” Kim notes. For those living in Optima Signature®, SKIN Laser & MedSpa is not just a medspa but a part of their daily lives, enhancing the community feel and the building’s appeal.

Kim takes great care in treating her clients. She explains, “I greet them at the elevator when they get off on the seventh floor and schedule plenty of time for each person, so no one feels they are sitting in an unfriendly waiting room. I have to say the architecture of the building — with its minimal design, floor-to-ceiling windows, and amazing views, contributes to people immediately feeling “zen” when they enter my treatment space.”

As SKIN Laser & MedSpa continues to grow, the foundation of community and convenience remains at its core. The medspa has become a symbol of how personal wellness and luxury living can blend seamlessly, providing an example of Optima®’s commitment to fostering an environment where residents can thrive.

Supporting entrepreneurs like Kim underscores the potential of integrating personal wellness businesses within residential communities. It’s a testament to our visionary approach at Optima®, creating spaces where professional aspirations flourish alongside personal well-being.

Celebrating a Chicago Tradition: The 2024 Grant Park Music Festival

The Grant Park Music Festival, a cherished tradition in Chicago, is back for its 2024 season, promising a summer filled with mesmerizing performances that cater to a wide variety of musical tastes, From June 12th through August 17th, the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus will deliver a lineup rich with classical masterpieces, contemporary works, and engaging thematic concerts under the artistic direction of Carlos Kalmar. For the residents of Optima Signature® and Optima Lakeview®, the festival offers a splendid opportunity to engage with Chicago’s vibrant cultural scene.

The Grant Park Music Festival is a significant cultural event in Chicago, celebrated for its nearly 90-year tradition of making classical music accessible to all. The festival was born out of the Great Depression as a collaborative effort between Mayor Anton Cermak and James C. Petrillo, the president of the musicians’ union, to provide free, high-quality musical performances to lift the spirits of Chicagoans during tough times.

Grant Park Music Festival, Pritzker Pavilion. Credit: Farrah Malik, Silverman Group on Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

Since its inception in 1935, the festival has become a beloved summer tradition. The Chicago Park District officially established the Grant Park Orchestra in 1944 under the leadership of Principal Conductor Nikolai Malko. Over the decades, the orchestra has been guided by illustrious conductors such as Irwin Hoffman, Leonard Slatkin, David Zinman, and Hugh Wolff, with Carlos Kalmar taking over as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor in 2000.

In 1962, the Grant Park Chorus was founded, initially led by Thomas Peck. The chorus has since thrived under the direction of Christopher Bell, who has been at the helm since 2002, adding a rich vocal dimension to the festival’s offerings.

The festival’s venues have evolved alongside its artistic growth. Originally held in a temporary bandshell near the Field Museum, the festival moved to the Petrillo Bandshell in 1978, named after its founder. In 2004, it found a new home at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, a state-of-the-art facility designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry. This venue offers an unparalleled auditory experience, perfectly complementing the festival’s high-caliber performances.

Today, the Grant Park Music Festival operates as a collaboration between the Grant Park Orchestral Association, the Chicago Park District, and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. It continues to offer an array of concerts, artistic development programs, radio broadcasts, and community engagement initiatives, all free to the public. This commitment to accessibility and excellence in music performance reflects the festival’s enduring legacy and its transformative impact on the city of Chicago.

The festival’s mission resonates deeply with the community-oriented culture of Optima®’s properties, including Optima Signature® and Optima Lakeview®,allowing its special blend of artistic vibrancy and communal engagement to bring people together through the universal language of music.

 

To learn more about the 2024 season, visit the Grant Park Music Festival website here.

Green Grazing: How Goats are Advancing Sustainability

Optima® is committed to sustainability and the environment, always seeking innovative and eco-friendly solutions to maintain and enhance the beauty of our communities. One recent example of these efforts that sparked our interest was the use of goats to clear invasive species in Glencoe, a sustainable practice that helps preserve native plants and reduces the need for harmful chemicals and machinery.

In early May, the Glencoe Park District invited a herd of 22 goats under the ownership of Kim Hunter and her Green Goats of Wisconsin, to spend a few days in Milton Park, which includes a walking path at Dundee Road and Milton Avenue and a wooded area adjacent to a playground. The goats were brought in as a natural and efficient way to manage overgrown vegetation and restore balance to the ecosystem, since invasive species quickly choke out native plants and disrupt the natural habitat. Traditional methods of controlling these plants often involve chemical herbicides or heavy machinery, both of which can have detrimental effects on the environment. The herd immediately went to work, chomping buckthorn, honeysuckle, poison ivy and celandine.

With their voracious appetites, the goats are capable of consuming large quantities of vegetation, including the invasive species. As the goats graze, they naturally clear the area, allowing native plants to flourish once again. The use of goats is rooted in the principles of ecological balance and sustainability, and supports biodiversity by allowing native plants to thrive, which in turn provides habitat and food for local wildlife. Additionally, the goats’ natural grazing patterns help to aerate the soil, promoting healthy plant growth and improving soil quality.

The initiative in Glencoe is a testament to the effectiveness of this approach. Over a four-day period, the goats were able to make significant progress in clearing invasive species from the designated areas. Their presence also served as an educational opportunity for the community, highlighting the benefits of sustainable practices and the importance of maintaining ecological balance.

The use of goats to clear invasive species in Glencoe is a shining example of how sustainable practices can effectively address environmental challenges. This approach not only benefits the local ecosystem by promoting the growth of native plants but also aligns with Optima®’s dedication to sustainability and environmental stewardship. By embracing such innovative solutions that work with nature rather than against it, we can create healthier, more vibrant communities that harmonize with the natural world.

Read the full story about the goats in Milton Park (with additional photos) in The Record here.

Exploring Artist Ellison Keomaka’s Soulful Journey

At Optima® communities, we believe in fostering a vibrant culture that encourages creativity and engagement. It is with great pleasure that we highlight the diverse talents within our communities, especially when it comes to special events that bring everyone together. Recently, we had the unique opportunity to host an extraordinary exhibition with Ellison Keomaka, a celebrated local artist and the hand behind the commissioned installations across Optima® buildings.

Tell us a little bit about the exhibition idea with it. Was it who organized it? Did you make original work for the exhibition or was it more of a curation of existing  paintings? Was there a theme?
At the end of 2023, some life events shifted my perspective. I had an overwhelming sense of clarity about what I wanted to create next — paintings for myself. Telling the story of the warrior spirit and the beauty of life through flowers began at the start of the year. The next 60 days held surprising discoveries for me that became the body of work titled “Hanakotoba.”

Ellison Keomaka Exhibition Text
Exhibition narrative

For the first time in my career, I created a body of work that wasn’t based on commissions or the collector’s aesthetic. These were stories that meant something to me personally. Celebrating life’s gifts and our impermanence, these paintings connect with the viewer, as well.

I chose the show title “Hanakotoba,” which translates to “flower words” in Japanese, as the visual palette to tell the stories of my life. Through the use of floral patterns, colors, and textures, I was able to express moments and people that have impacted me greatly.

The collection was diverse yet cohesive, with stories represented in many different forms and colors. In just 60 days, 38 paintings and 1 sculpture came together to become the exhibition.

Scene from the exhibition opening
Scene from the exhibition opening

Can you describe the physical setting for the exhibition?
I paid special attention to the physical setting for the exhibition and chose the Residents’ Lounge at 7190 Optima Kierland®. The space is open and airy, which made it a perfect venue for the paintings. The exhibit was curated with the architecture in mind, focusing on every detail, including the custom fabricated easels for intentional and refined presentation of the work.

The stands made the paintings appear as though they were floating in space, which contributed to the sensation of being in a lush garden. Additionally, I installed panels with texts that shared personal quotes and the stories behind the works. The storytelling aspect made the show unique.

To transform the space for residents, I created an entry point with two large banners to offer a sense of arrival to the show.

How did the people attending engage with the work?
The event took place from 6:00 to 9:00 pm and attracted more than 200 people. Half of the attendees were Optima Kierland® residents, while the rest were collectors of my work and close friends.

As I walked through the show, I was moved by the overwhelming response of appreciation for the artwork. I was touched by the presence of many people who have been instrumental in my career success and those who are close friends. The artwork resonated with the attendees, and many of the pieces found new homes with their stories and intentions.

The show also featured curated music for the event, which a close friend created and performed live. It was the final piece that brought the show together and created an unforgettable experience.

Ellison working in his studio
Ellison working in his studio

What was most meaningful to you about the exhibition?
Creating work that is bold, takes risks, and shares my values was a challenging experience. Although the behind the scenes of the show was not visible, the process behind it was a battle, both internally and externally. Each painting had to be perfect due to the tight timeline, and striking the right balance between creative expression and excellence was a delicate dance. Bringing together all the elements to create a seamless and engaging experience was also challenging, but it all coalesced thanks to the help of some amazing people.

Despite the challenges, there was a beauty to the process that I found only by persevering and courageously moving forward.

So what’s next?
The show marks a new beginning and a transformation in my work. The process and the way I create have once again evolved. I am excited for this new chapter of expression in my work.

There are several amazing upcoming projects that include the new Optima McDowell Mountain™. The buildings will feature brand new styles of work using inspirations from the surrounding nature. There will also be limited edition releases of work from the show and some exciting new exhibits to be announced. I am just grateful for each opportunity I’m given to create.

 

Exploring the Health Benefits of Pilates: A Journey Towards a Stronger Self

At Optima®, we’re committed to nurturing aesthetically pleasing living spaces along with holistic lifestyles that elevate the well-being of our residents. Central to this philosophy is the incorporation of fitness modalities that cater to both body and mind. Pilates, a form of exercise that has gained widespread popularity for its myriad health benefits, is a perfect embodiment of this holistic approach to wellness. Let’s delve into the health benefits of Pilates and understand why it’s become a staple in our fitness offerings.

Pilates, developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century, is a low-impact exercise technique designed to strengthen muscles while improving postural alignment and flexibility. The practice focuses on precise movements originating from the core, offering an integrated workout that not only tones the body but also enhances mental awareness.

Core Strength and Stability
One of the foundational pillars of Pilates is its emphasis on core strength. Regular Pilates practice fortifies the muscles of the abdomen, lower back, hips, and pelvis, leading to improved stability and balance. This core-centric approach not only enhances athletic performance but also mitigates the risk of injuries by supporting the spine, making everyday movements safer and more efficient.

Pilates_Optima Verdana
Pilates reformers in the fitness center at Optima Verdana®

Enhanced Flexibility
Unlike some forms of exercise that prioritize muscle strength at the expense of flexibility, Pilates promotes an equal emphasis on both. Through controlled stretches and movements, Pilates gradually increases the length of the muscles and the range of motion within the joints. This balanced approach to strength and flexibility is crucial for reducing the risk of injuries and maintaining the body’s overall agility and youthfulness.

Mind-Body Connection
Pilates is as much a workout for the mind as it is for the body. The practice demands concentration, focus, and precision—qualities that encourage practitioners to remain present and mindful throughout their workout. This mindfulness fosters a deeper connection between mind and body, enhancing proprioception (the sense of the body’s position in space) and contributing to a state of mental clarity and relaxation.

Improved Postural Alignment
The modern lifestyle, often characterized by prolonged periods of sitting, can lead to detrimental postural habits. Pilates addresses this issue head-on by emphasizing alignment, breathing, and efficient movement patterns. Regular practice helps to correct postural imbalances, ensuring that the spine is aligned, and the body posture is optimized for both aesthetics and health.

Low Impact, High Efficacy
Pilates is accessible to individuals of all fitness levels, including those recovering from injuries or suffering from chronic pain. The exercises can be modified to meet the needs of each practitioner, offering a safe yet effective workout. This adaptability makes Pilates an inclusive practice, welcoming everyone from elite athletes to those embarking on their fitness journey.

Within the Optima® communities, Pilates serves as a pathway to a balanced and enriched life. Our state-of-the-art fitness centers are equipped to provide residents with an environment where they can explore the full range of Pilates benefits, supported by expert instruction and a community of like-minded individuals.

By integrating Pilates into our wellness offerings, we aim to empower our residents with the tools they need to lead vibrant, healthy lives. Whether it’s improving physical strength, enhancing mental well-being, or simply enjoying the social aspects of group classes, Pilates offers something for everyone.

As we continue to prioritize wellness in all its forms, Pilates stands out as a key component of our holistic approach to living well. We invite our residents to discover its transformative power, embracing the practice as a means to strengthen bodies,minds, and an overall sense of well-being.

Optima® Voices: Interview with Emily Etland, Chicago Regional Manager at Optima®

Optima® Voices: Conversations with Our Property Teams is a series that brings you closer to the individuals who make our communities thrive. Through these interviews, we’re shedding light on the dedicated staff behind the seamless operation of Optima®’s properties, highlighting their passion, experiences, and the personal touches they bring to enhancing the living experience for residents. Join us as we explore the stories of those who deliver — day in and day out — the quality of living that makes Optima communities extraordinary. Today, we’re talking with Emily Etland, Chicago Regional Manager at Optima®.

Tell us a bit about your background and the role you play at Optima®.
I have been in property management for about 20 years.  I started in leasing and have worked in many different roles, at many different property types.  Most of my life was spent in New Orleans, and I moved to Chicago about 4 years ago.  While I’ve spent the last few years in the fee management side of property management, I was excited to join Optima® to work directly for a company that is fully involved with each of their assets from the start.  While each of my days at Optima® is different, my role as Regional Property Manager involves overseeing our 3 Chicago area properties — Optima Signature®, Optima Lakeview®, and Optima Verdana® — and their daily operations.  This can range from their financial performance, to staff performance, to building operations and so much more.  I also act as the conduit between our site and executive teams, ensuring our site teams always have a voice.

How did you begin your journey at Optima®?
I actually began my journey at Optima only seven months ago.  While I wasn’t really on a job hunt, a recruiter reached out to me about the position and piqued my interest and we spoke a bit.  After that, I had an in-person meeting with our Director of Operations, Jamie Springer, and learned what she feels makes Optima® unique.  I then had a chance to meet with two of our SVPs and the rest is history!

What drew you to Optima® initially?
When I first moved to Chicago, I took a position as Property Manager. With being new to the city, I wanted to get to know the market by being on-site and working directly with a single team. As I grew to know Chicago, I wanted to return to a regional role that I had played in New Orleans. The opportunity at Optima presented an exciting opportunity for me to not only oversee a group of communities, but to work for a company that is vertically aligned. So today, I’m part of a team where everyone works from start to finish to ensure a project is always developed and maintained to a high standard.

Optima® has a unique set of values that differentiates it from other company cultures. How does that affect the quality of your work life? What values matter most to you?
I think Optima®’s values serve as a solid anchor in some of the tougher situations that we face.  I can’t count how many times we’ll be struggling through a problem and someone will quote one of our values as a way forward, like “there is a solution to every problem” or “do the right thing even when it’s hard.”  And while we often share a laugh afterwards, the fact that we’ve all internalized these values is so powerful, and personally gives me the conviction to stop and adjust my attitude and approach to overcome doubt or a sense of defeat.

Of all the Optima® values, my favorite is “be bold.” It pairs with each of the other values…and amplifies them.  Or stands all on its own.  And it perfectly captures everything I do each day.

How do you view the concept of community at Optima®? How does it differ from other property management companies you’ve worked with?
It’s interesting, every property management company I’ve worked for has done events and strived to create a unique brand for each community, while aligning with the larger management brand.  What is different about Optima® is as soon as you walk into one of our buildings, you know you’re in an Optima® designed space because of the extraordinary modern design. But how do you know you’re in an Optima® community?  That’s all in the people.  As a team, we are completely focused on making sure our residents feel at home. As a result, our relationships begin long before our residents move in, when we reach out to conduct “getting to know you” calls to discover their interests, so we can be ready to provide them with the best experience possible from Day One. Because of these early connections, we’re able to curate events that cater to residents’ priorities, and help organize the clubs that reflect what people care about — book clubs, mahjong, pickleball, game nights and so on.  Living in an Optima® building is being part of a community, a place that feels like home.  Building strong, lasting relationships is at the core of what we do, and a staple in how we build community for our residents.

What are some things you’re learning since joining Optima®?
Since joining Optima®, I’ve been so impressed with just how much architecture can lead even the day-to-day operations of the property management side of the business. From terms we use to highlight things on a tour, to how we hang art in our models — so much detail!

What makes you most proud to be a part of the Optima® team?
I’m proud to be part of a team that wants to grow based on things we’re learning, and responding to areas that need improvement. Things at Optima® move fast (speed and detail set us apart), but it’s because we’re constantly evolving so that we’re able to execute things at the highest level possible.  We never want to settle for a mediocre result, we want to provide the best to our residents and our team.

Optima® Voices: Interview with Tracy Ratdavong, Assistant Property Manager at Optima Verdana®

Optima® Voices: Conversations with Our Property Teams is a series that brings you closer to the individuals who make our communities thrive. Through these interviews, we’re shedding light on the dedicated staff behind the seamless operation of Optima’s properties, highlighting their passion, experiences, and the personal touches they bring to enhancing the living experience for residents. Join us as we explore the stories of those who deliver — day in and day out — the quality of living that makes Optima communities extraordinary. Today, we’re talking with Tracy Ratdavong, Assistant Property Manager at Optima Verdana®.

Tell us a bit about your background and the role you play at Optima Verdana.
I started in leasing and property management in Michigan very early in my professional career with a goal of moving to Chicago. In order to make this geographic move, I spent a few years in sales and technical recruiting. In one of my placements, I was recruiting candidates for a property management position and stayed connected with the individual who was eventually hired. I stayed in touch with her — only to find that she later recruited me for an assistant property manager role!

I feel like everything in my professional background has happened for a reason, including giving me the skills I need to manage lease-up and retain residents, provide great customer service, form lasting relationships, and build a strong team.

How did you begin your journey at Optima Verdana?
Prior to Optima Verdana, I assisted in managing two buildings that gave me exposure to the Illinois market. I heard great things about Optima and when I saw an opening, I immediately applied for the position. From the first meeting with the team, I felt an instant connection, which sparked my interest in working for such a great company. Every conversation I had during the interview process felt genuine and everyone on the team expressed how Optima cares equally for their residents and for their employees. I joined the team in May 2023 when Optima Verdana® opened to the public. Since then, I have been a part of the journey with the development and completion of this beautiful community, as we welcomed our first residents in August and completed construction in November.

What drew you to Optima Verdana initially?
I was really drawn to the Optima Verdana team from our very first conversation.  Everyone was so welcoming and had nothing but great things to say. They made me feel like they were truly happy in their roles and that made me excited to have a chance to be a part of that team.  I also really loved the fact that all our design, development, and management is all in-house. This really made me feel like I was going to have a real voice in managing this new community and that my ideas could help contribute to the success of our new building.

How do you view the concept of community at Optima Verdana? How does it differ from other properties/buildings?
To me when I hear community, I think of togetherness — and at Optima Verdana, it truly feels like everyone is family. We have residents who meet up throughout the week for pickleball and on the Sky Deck just to enjoy each other’s company. And because so many of our residents have been with us since the very beginning, they love coming by our office, excited to share great news about their lives. This is unlike anywhere I have ever worked or lived. We strive to provide the best service to our residents and give them not only a home, but a lifestyle catered to their individual needs. At Optima Verdana, we are a true community, and our team and residents work together to create an inviting environment that feels like home.

Optima® has a unique set of values that differentiates it from other company cultures. How does that affect the quality of your work life? What values matter most to you?
Building strong lasting relationships has always been important to me and with Optima, everyone applies this together as a team and with our residents.

The support I have gotten from my team and management has helped me grow in so many ways. Everyone wants to help each other succeed and this value flows every day into the Optima culture. I believe you are who you surround yourself with and here at Optima, across all the various properties and corporate offices, we are an incredibly strong team, and we inspire each other.

What are some things you’re learning since joining the Optima Verdana team?
By being connected with our entire team, I have learned so much from every group. Starting from my early days at Optima, I was part of the construction meetings. I learned about the development and overall project management, which has helped me understand Optima Verdana in much greater depth. It has given me more knowledge so I can speak with current and future residents with more confidence and detail. Since welcoming our first residents, I have learned something new every day. I routinely work with our marketing, accounting, and asset management teams, which has pushed me out of my comfort zone to undertake new challenges. This has been rewarding in so many ways and I continue to open my mind to the endless possibilities at Optima.

What makes you most proud to be a part of the Optima Verdana team?
I am most proud to represent a team that strives to give the best and be the best. Everyone cares and encourages each other. Optima has built an incredible reputation and continues to stand out in terms of architectural design, concern for sustainability, attracting and retaining exceptional professionals, and providing a great place to work. I take pride in saying I work for such an amazing company!

 

Inside Optima®: Resident Stories, Interview with Jen Dole, Pickleball League Member at Optima Lakeview®

Welcome to Inside Optima®: Resident Stories, a series that takes you behind the scenes of life in Optima’s dynamic communities. Through intimate conversations with our residents, we’re exploring the diverse experiences, unique lifestyles, and vibrant cultures that flourish within Optima’s architecturally stunning buildings. Join us as we discover what makes living in an Optima community not just a choice of residence, but a way of life. In this conversation, we sat down with Jen Dole, resident and Pickleball League member at Optima Lakeview®.

How long have you been a resident at Optima Lakeview? What drew you there?

I moved to Chicago from Sacramento in November 2022 to be close to my youngest son who lives here — he dances with the Joffrey Ballet. And because I work remotely, I can live anywhere, so I chose Chicago as my new home. I had visited the city many times and was specifically looking for a place where I would find a sense of community, and the opportunity to get to know new people. What attracted me to Optima Lakeview® were all the events, the beautiful architecture and fantastic amenity spaces…including the pickleball court. That was a huge plus for me because I was an avid pickleball player in California and knowing I could play in my own building was incredibly appealing.

Can you tell us how the informal “Pickleball League” at Optima Lakeview came to be?

Since I didn’t know anybody when I moved to Optima Lakeview, I started by recruiting other people who might want to play. I did this by talking to residents who were using the court, and meeting people at building events like Wine Wednesday and gatherings for pet people. I met people who hadn’t played but were interested, and I started holding informal sessions on Sunday mornings. I would teach the basics and we would play. It’s such a social sport and everyone enjoyed getting to know one another, and getting exercise at the same time!

So our Pickleball League started organically. We formed a group on the Optima Lakeview app, and that brought in more people. And then, because we needed the ability to talk together more dynamically, we started a text group, which we recently moved to WhatsApp so we can accommodate both iPhone and Android users.

As more people got interested, Maike, the property manager, sponsored a training session onsite with a local organization called Toss and Spin. This sparked a ton of new interest and from there, we organized a tournament. It was so much fun! And because everyone enjoyed it so much, we’re having another one this month.

Intense tournament play on the beautiful indoor Optima court.
Intense tournament play on the beautiful indoor Optima pickleball court.

What does a typical gathering look like for your group, and how often do you meet?

Besides the tournaments, people simply schedule their time on the court through the Optima Lakeview app. In a good week, I play three or four times. Sometimes it’s a kind of “grab and go” game because we’ve all got other things to do, and sometimes we have time to stay around and chat or have a coffee. I also have a great group of women friends that I’ve met from an intermediate pickleball training I did at the local Y, and I invite them to play here once or twice a month. They love the facilities, especially during the winter when it’s challenging to find great indoor pickleball courts.

There are a number of us in the Pickleball League that take advantage of the outdoor courts in local parks. A few residents have their own nets, and we just set them up on the tennis courts. I love that we can still play together and enjoy being outside in a beautiful park setting.

How has being a part of the “Pickleball League” enhanced your experience as a resident of Optima Lakeview?
Today, I have a fantastic group of friends because of the Pickleball League. We go to dinner together. I’ve organized outings to see the Joffrey perform. The daughter of one of my friends recently watched my dog when I was out of town. We do each other favors. And we get to enjoy the camaraderie of pickleball and staying fit together. It is so lovely.

How does an Optima Lakeview resident get involved, and are there skill level requirements or open play for beginners?

The atmosphere of the Pickleball League is very relaxed and open, so any newcomer is welcome. The rules can be a little wonky at first and there is some fun terminology, but It’s very easy to learn, and a lot of former tennis players now play pickleball because you don’t have to be as athletic to enjoy the game and to excel. All of us in the League go out of our way to invite other residents in the building, and we love watching our ranks grow by the week!

Optima® Voices: Conversation with Aleks Milic, Leasing Manager at Optima Kierland Apartments®

Optima® Voices: Conversations with Our Property Teams” is a series that brings you closer to the individuals who make our communities thrive. Through these interviews, we’re shedding light on the dedicated staff behind the seamless operation of Optima®’s properties, highlighting their passion, experiences, and the personal touches they bring to enhancing the living experience for residents. Join us as we explore the stories of those who deliver — day in and day out — the quality of living that makes Optima communities extraordinary. Today, we’re talking with Aleks Milic, Leasing Manager at Optima Kierland Apartments®.

Tell us a bit about your background and the role you play at Optima Kierland®.
I arrived in the US from Switzerland in 2018, and I have accumulated four years of experience in Property Management. My primary responsibility here at Optima Kierland® is to ensure that all of our towers are occupied at 93%. Additionally, I lead a leasing team of three, overseeing the “sales” aspect of our property management operations.

How did you begin your journey at Optima Kierland®?
I wasn’t actively seeking another job opportunity, but when Megan from People Experience reached out to me via LinkedIn, I couldn’t resist listening to what Optima® had to offer. Approaching my fourth year in Arizona, everyone is aware that Optima® is a unique community known for providing exceptional customer service and offering an array of amazing amenities.

What drew you to Optima Kierland® initially?
Following my interviews, I gained a deeper understanding of what Optima® aims to deliver to our residents. Optima® initially attracted me with its exceptional design. From the overall aesthetic to the quality of customer service, it resonates with the comforts of home. This is the first community where I genuinely stand behind and take pride in saying that we offer luxury apartment homes.

How do you view the concept of community at Optima Kierland®? How does it differ from other properties/buildings?
Optima Kierland® is truly its own community! We stand out significantly from our competitors. Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to work for other property management companies, and I must say that Optima® goes above and beyond for its residents. The most notable distinction lies in Optima®’s architectural standpoint; they prioritize ensuring that everything has its designated place.

Optima® has a unique set of values that differentiates it from other company cultures. How does that affect the quality of your work life? What values matter most to you?
As a team, we all contribute and are empowered to bring in new ideas. The constant drive for creation stands out to me as a core value. We are always striving for improvements, whether it’s making the move-in experience smoother, refining apartment designs, or shaping the overall community aesthetic. The openness to feedback and our commitment to making necessary improvements significantly contribute to the quality of work life. Feeling heard at Optima® plays a vital role in this ongoing cycle of enhancement.

What are some things you’re learning since joining the Optima Kierland® team?
Speaking up and being involved is encouraged, emphasizing that each team member is crucial to our success. Recognizing that success lies in the details, I’ve learned that while there are communities with fantastic amenities at lower rates, none compare to what we offer at Optima®. We don’t view residents as mere accounts paying rent; instead, we aim to build lasting relationships and genuinely care about their well-being.

What makes you most proud to be a part of the Optima Kierland® team?
I can confidently state that we have the best community in Arizona! Optima® is not just an apartment home; it’s a lifestyle, a genuine community. What makes me most proud of being a part of Optima Kierland® is our incredible team that collaborates seamlessly across departments – we are truly one united force. We are all hands-on and share a common goal of providing the best experience for our residents.

person name goes here

Maintenance Supervisor

Glencoe, IL





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