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 Arielle Band, resident and founder of “Lunch with Friends” at Optima Lakeview®.

How long have you been a resident at Optima Lakeview® and what got you there?
My teenage daughter and I moved to Chicago from Maryland in July 2023. Optima Lakeview® was the only building we visited because we fell in love with it right from the start. The layouts were great for us, the feeling of walking into the atrium flooded with light is amazing and all the amenities are fantastic. — including the gym, the pool, the pickleball court, and the community spaces. Honestly, the building kind of spoke to us. It was a little above our budget, but we were willing to make the stretch because the lifestyle it gives us makes all the difference. I was familiar with the Lakeview neighborhood prior to moving which helped us settle in, along with the fact that my daughter’s school is a short distance from Optima Lakeview®. And once we got here, Maike, the property manager, immediately began to introduce us to folks, making us feel welcomed and comfortable.

Can you tell us how “Lunch with Friends” came to be?
The Optima Lakeview® property team makes a lot of effort to help build and engage the community, and it’s fantastic the way they host regular events that give all of us opportunities to meet each other and create connections. It’s an enormous help for the many of us who are new to Chicago — and particularly those of us who also work from home and find it more challenging to build new relationships because our colleagues are all scattered around the world.

After a few months, I found that some of the social events like wine nights were getting so popular and drawing bigger crowds that it became a little harder to meet new people. So it occurred to me that it would be fantastic to create a subgroup of residents who are around the building during the day, working. I figured, ‘I am in my apartment all day every day and there are plenty of others at Optima Lakeview® doing the same thing. Why don’t we get together once a month, grab lunch, and get to know each other a little bit?’

I first brought the idea to Nick, who was the former leasing manager, and he took it to Maike. And Maike helped make things happen from there. He promotes the gatherings via our building app and with signage in prominent places, and arranges for catering.

Pretty simple! That’s how “Lunch with Friends” began — launched in January 2024.

What does a typical gathering look like for your group?
We meet in the Residents’ Club at lunchtime, and there are typically 20-30 of us. We use the long communal table that seats 12 and the smaller tables for 4 to 6 people, so the gathering is comfortable and intimate. People filter in, grab food, find a seat and get to chat with people they haven’t met before, or others they’ve met but don’t see often. It’s so great how you very naturally wind up having some first conversations with neighbors or deepening relationships you’ve already started.

Can you share a memorable experience or conversation from one of your gatherings?
Back in February, one of the residents who came to lunch is an airline pilot, who is at home on days that he isn’t flying. The rest of us were so curious about what it’s like to be a pilot that we clustered around him to ask questions and hear about his experiences. By the end of that lunch, we had all decided we wanted to change careers and become pilots!

At another lunch, I met a neighbor who had just moved to the building and they moved to Optima Lakeview® because there had been a fire in her home. She too has children, and so I was able to tell her about some of the great amenities and activities for kids in the building and neighborhood.  Really, the conversations are just natural and organic, and run the gamut from our work lives to our personal lives.