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Chicago & Scottsdale Farmers Markets

Chicago and Scottsdale, home to lively Optima Communities, have much in common, including some of the best farmers markets to be found anywhere in the country. As summer approaches, each city comes more alive with a broad array of markets and fairs. Today, we’re spotlighting some of the favorites in each city:

Chicago’s Farmers Markets

Chicago’s French Market is one of the city’s nontraditional options, taking a cue from its European namesake and occurring indoors. Found in the same building as the Ogilvie Metra Train Station, and only a short walk from Optima Signature, the market is host to more than 30 local vendors – a mix of entrepreneurs and family-owned businesses – that supply neighborhood favorites and cultural luxuries. You can visit the French Market daily, except Sundays, from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Tucked beneath the Western Brown Line Stop is Chicago’s Lincoln Square Market. Although it has limited hours, Tuesdays from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Thursdays from 3 to 7 p.m., it’s a must-stop for residents. Local farmers, food purveyors and artisans fill the space each week, bringing everything from fresh produce to homemade hot sauce. And, if you go, make sure not to miss the local food trucks found in the area during the market!

For Optima Lakeview residents, Low-line Market on Southport is closest. The carefully curated market takes place every Tuesday from June to October and has a variety of favorite vendors that include The Hive Supply, Elsie Mae’s Pies and Lyons Fruit Farm. The market is part of Lakeview’s larger Low-line project, which helps to connect the neighborhood through a half-mile walkway and garden underneath the CTA ‘L’ tracks. 

Roadrunner Park Farmers Market, Scottsdale

Scottsdale’s Farmers Markets

One of the largest farmers markets in the area, the Uptown Farmers Market features nearly 100 vendors at the North Phoenix Baptist Church every Saturday from 7 to 11 a.m. Those who visit will find everything from local produce and plants to cocktails and cookies. The market, which is only a 20 minute trip from Optima Sonoran Village, frequently has a variety of food trucks to grab a quick snack from while shopping!

Found in Roadrunner Park just East of State Route 51, Roadrunner Park Farmers Market is open all year from 7 to 11 a.m. on Saturdays. Although the market is smaller, it carries a mix of amazing products that include hand-crafted items, fresh fruits and vegetables and baked goods. And, since it’s in the park, you can spend the rest of your day at the children’s playground, fishing pond, swimming pool or soccer field!

For those looking to travel outside of the city, Carefree Farmers Market, found directly 15 miles north of Kierland Commons and Optima Kierland, makes the perfect choice. The market takes place every Friday throughout the summer from 8 to 11 a.m. and is known for its assortment of local treasures. Vendors change weekly, but favorite goods include artisan jellies, locally-made salsas and freshly baked bread.

This summer, make some plans to support local businesses and vendors by venturing out and exploring what your nearest farmers market has to offer!

Immersive Art: The Fusion Between Art and Technology

Whether you’re in Chicago or Scottsdale, immersive art exhibitions are quickly becoming the latest trend, unveiling a new approach for art lovers to savor their favorite works and artists. What separates these shows from what you would expect to see at a traditional museum or gallery space?

The History of Immersive Art

While immersive art may seem like a new phenomenon to many of us, immersive experiences can be traced back centuries. One of the finest examples can be found in the architecture of the middle ages. Employing stained glass in the construction of churches was often used to create an otherworldly experience for patrons. As natural light floods through each window, colors fill the interior, telling a vibrant visual story.

More recently, thanks to the help of modern technologies that include virtual reality, holography and digital projection, immersive experiences have transformed how we can view works of art, enabling us to explore each piece as a protagonist within it. 

The objective of immersive art lies in entertainment, taking 2D environments and metamorphosing them into 3D worlds often filled with accompanying music. Video projection mapping programmed individually for each immersive environment makes sure that every inch of the space is sure to be covered, further enveloping the audience in the engaging work. 

And while many spaces are utilizing immersive technology to revamp older works, ambitious artists are also constructing their own participatory installations. Yayoi Kusama, a Japanese artist, has been creating immersive work since the 1960s. Kusama’s most famous installation, Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli’s Field, uses dozens of mirrors to augment the perception of the stuffed polka dot sculptures she created, and because of those mirrors, casts the visitor as the work’s subject. 

Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli’s Field, Yayoi Kusama, 1965

Experience A Show For Yourself

Chicago offers a variety of immersive art experiences. Just South of Lincoln Park and within close proximity to Optima Signature and Optima Lakeview at Lighthouse ArtSpace, the Van Gogh, and Frida Kahlo exhibits continue to run throughout the summer, transporting visitors into both of the artist’s worlds. Other, more traditional immersive art experiences include the Museum of Illusions, Sky Shows at the Adler Planetarium, the upcoming Museum of Ice Cream exhibit coming to The Shops at Tribune Tower and the Illinois Holocaust Museum’s onging exhbit, The Journey Back: A VR Expeerience

Scottsdale and Phoenix also offer a variety of engaging installations to choose from. Just walking distance from Optima Sonoran Village is Scottsdale’s Lighthouse Artspace, found in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale, is home to the Immersive Van Gogh and Klimt exhibits scheduled to run through July. Wonderspaces, another extraordinary venue in Scottsdale Fashion Square, features an evolving lineup of interactive installations and signature cocktails.

Immersive art has always been a revolutionary way to interact with different crafts, and thanks to technology, not only is it becoming more innovative but more accessible. With the trend on the rise, there’s sure to be no shortage of immersive art experiences, and we’re excited to see what modernisations come next.

A Guide to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Studios Part 2: Taliesin West

While Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin was the first of his residences and studios, Taliesin West, a monumental exploration of Wright’s unique approach to organic architecture, is arguably Wright’s most intimate creation. 

Following the completion of Taliesin, where Wright lived and worked for nearly 30 years, the famed architect became interested in relocating to a warmer climate. In 1935, he purchased 495 acres of stunning Sonoran Desert below McDowell Mountain just outside of Scottsdale. Taliesin West brought extraordinary life to Arizona’s then-desolate desert, and, after nearly nine decades, the complex continues to advance Wright’s legacy and his iconic designs. 

Similar to Taliesin, Taliesin West drew great inspiration from its brilliant surroundings. While working with a group of apprentices throughout the construction process, Wright took advantage of the unique materials found in the surrounding landscapes. Using a mixture of local rocks, cement and desert sand, Wright and his team created, often by hand, what many describe as “desert masonry” to help structure the campus.

The complex is situated with various unique architectural elements that accentuate its deep-rooted connection to nature. Translucent canvas (now plastic) once covered the roof of many rooms within Taliesin West, creating an illusory linkage to the warm outdoors. Other features include lofty redwood beams accenting the building’s cold structure. 

Throughout Wright’s life, the campus served as both a winter home and a desert studio. While Taliesin West never experienced any misfortunes, unlike its sibling complex Taliesin, the space did experience numerous renovations throughout the period from 1937 to 1959 when Wright lived and worked there. Some of the renovations included the addition of a drafting studio, dining hall,  workshop, three theaters, Wright’s office and living quarters, and the residences for his apprentices and staff. Various decorative walkways, gardens, terraces, and pools acted as both luxuries to the property and connections to each larger structure. 

Taliesin West interior
The Garden Room found inside of Taliesin West, Courtesy of Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

Today,Taliesin West serves as the headquarters for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and, until 2020, was the winter home for The School of Architecture at Taliesin. The inspiring architecture was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1974, was recognized as a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1982 and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019.

Found just a short drive from the heart of Scottsdale, Taliesin West offers the perfect trip for anyone seeking to explore one of Arizona’s most exciting works of architecture. The complex hosts a variety of events and programs throughout the year and presents visitors with numerous tours that can be discovered on their website here.  

Exploring the Scottsdale Arts District

Since the early 2000s, Optima has called Scottsdale home. The one-of-a-kind desert city offers a little bit of something for everyone. Golf lovers can enjoy the sprawling championship courses, foodies have access to some of the country’s finest dining and chic boutiques provide shoppers endless entertainment. We are proud of our contributions to this vibrant city with the amazing communities of Optima Camelview Village, Optima Sonoran Village and Optima Kierland, and equally proud to see the city continuing to expand its cultural offerings to residents and visitors alike. Today we’re exploring one of the city’s most treasured locations, the Scottsdale Arts District

The arts district consists of an entire neighborhood found in the heart of Downtown Scottsdale, running along Main Street for roughly six blocks. Celebrated art galleries sit next to amazing art installations. Around them, retailers, boutiques and acclaimed restaurants ensure that visitors to the district are fully immersed in the best of everything. 

Some of Scottsdale’s most cherished pieces of public art – like the commanding sculpture Jack Knife – reside in the district, along with a number of the city’s museums and cultural venues including Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts and Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Arts, the home of Knight Rise.

Throughout the year, the arts district embraces its warm surroundings and friendly culture with its weekly ArtWalk. Every Thursday from 7 PM – 9 PM, buildings lining Main Street open their doors to the individuals enjoying the Scottsdale ArtWalk. In addition to this weekly tradition, ArtWalk hosts a themed Gold Palette series event every few weeks to offer even more exciting entertainment and showcase only the best of the best works of art. Live music, complimentary food and wine tastings, and extended gallery hours are just some of the few extra features that come along with the special event. Upcoming Gold Palette events include Western Week on February 3 and Native Spirit on March 3.

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art found in the Scottsdale Arts District, Courtesy of SMoCA

As we continue to develop our vibrant culture here in Scottsdale, particularly with the expansion of the Kierland community, we look forward to discovering new opportunities to enjoy the city’s rich cultural and entertainment programming, unique retail experiences and fantastic dining values, where there is truly something for everyone.

2021: A Year in Review

As we kick off 2022, we want to take a moment to reflect on how we’ve continued to grow, learn and serve others over the past 12 months. Here are just a few highlights:

Awards

We were honored to receive a total of 9 awards this year! Our design and architecture were recognized with the AIA Chicago Firm of the Year Award, AIA Chicago Design Excellence Awards – Distinguished Building Award (Arizona Courtyard House), and Chicago Athenaeum’s American Architecture Award twice (Optima Kierland and Optima Sonoran Village). 

Art Baril, our Maintenance Manager at Optima Sonoran Village was awarded the Gold Facilities and Maintenance Manager of the Year by Multi-Housing News at their 2021 MNH Excellence Awards. 

Our culture and values were also acknowledged in 2021 with the AZCentral Top Companies 2021 Award and Best Places to Work in Chicago for the second year in a row. 

To see the full 2021 lineup, visit our awards page here

Projects and Properties

This was a significant year for development, construction, leasing and more at Optima. In Chicago, we continued construction at Optima Lakeview, which is nearly complete. The project is the first multifamily development to achieve the WiredScore Home Gold Certification in North America. We also returned to our roots on the North Shore where we broke ground on our newest development, Optima Verdana, and plan to introduce our signature vertical landscaping system to the Midwest.

In Arizona, our leasing team worked tirelessly to lease up our new 7140 tower at Optima Kierland Apartments, and our second condo building, 7180 Optima Kierland, closed out. We also broke ground on the fifth and final residential tower at Optima Kierland, 7190 Optima Kierland which will open in 2023.

Culture

Throughout 2021 our culture at Optima continued to thrive through richly rewarding avenues of kinship and connection. We celebrated the autumn season with our second annual pumpkin carving and costume contest, observed Diwali, the festival of lights, and shared laughs and stories while celebrating our successful year at company outings at Topgolf and a Chicago Cubs Game. We also enjoyed the return of in-person happy hours during the year.

Our team continued to embrace and internalize our shared values more than ever. We gave back to the communities we live in by volunteering at the Skokie Lagoons on the Chicago North Shore, picking up trash at the boat launch. We also took the opportunity to acknowledge eight Optima employees with our Core Values Award for their exceptional representation of our beliefs throughout their work. 

We can’t thank our leadership, team members and Optima communities enough for making 2021 one to remember. Heading into 2022, we are excited to continue innovating and achieving great things together.

How to Keep Active in the Winter With Optima Fitness Centers

When the weather turns cold and the days get shorter, it can be difficult to stay true to our fitness goals. As part of Optima’s commitment to creating happy and healthy communities, we’re constantly developing ways to keep residents active throughout the year. In all of our buildings, residents will find incredible fitness and wellness amenities to stave off winter blues.

Indoor Basketball/Pickleball

The basketball courts at Optima provide generous spaces for individuals or groups to build endurance and strengthen their bodies, and they are thoughtfully designed to effortlessly flow into the modern design around them. Residents can step onto the courts to spend time doing drills or to join a pickup game. And as pickleball becomes evermore popular, many of our courts are now fitted out to accommodate this popular game, giving each space greater versatility.

Yoga 

For those looking for vigor, balance, stretching and meditative activity, Optima’s yoga studios are the perfect answer. Our yoga studios are fantastic for residents to learn more about themselves, practice mindfulness and discover new ways of staying active. Maintaining a routine yoga practice provides mental and physical health benefits, including improved energy and vitality. And, similar to all of our other amenity spaces, our yoga studios serve as spaces to build community and connect with other Optima residents who might share the same values.

Optima Lakeview’s state-of-the-art fitness center

Expansive Fitness Centers

Included in each of our apartment communities and many of our condominiums, Optima’s expansive fitness centers offer residents endless opportunities to focus on their health and wellness. At Optima Lakeview, the fitness center has been outfitted with top-of-the-line cardio equipment, a weight room, a light-filled studio for yoga and stretching and locker rooms with complimentary towel service. Residents can also take advantage of yoga classes and personal training, along with outdoor clubs for runners, bikers and nature lovers.

Swimming Pool at 7140 Kierland
Rooftop sky deck pool at the 7140 tower at Optima Kierland Apartments

Swimming Pools

No discussion of fitness and wellness amenities at Optima would be complete without showcasing our swimming pools. Many of our communities, including Optima Kierland, Optima Sonoran Village, Optima Signature and Optima Lakeview, offer beautifully-designed indoor and/or outdoor swimming pools — ideal for lap swimming and water aerobics — as a central feature of our impressive rooftop sky deck spaces. While the health benefits of swimming are compelling year-round, they are especially powerful in the cold winter months when a regular pool routine can be both invigorating and relaxing.

Rooftop Sauna at Optima Kierland Apartments
Rooftop Sauna at Optima Kierland Apartments

Saunas

A favorite among Optima residents, our rooftop saunas are a relaxing way to stay healthy throughout the year. While they aren’t a means to be active, saunas come with a wealth of  benefits, providing residents with an opportunity to reduce stress, relieve pain and recharge. While the benefits of using a sauna are seemingly endless, with cold weather, hopping into a heated room might be the only motivation you need.

At Optima communities, residents never have to fear the impact of winter on their mobility or on their peace of mind. With our healthy environments and distinctive amenities, mental and physical health are always a priority.

The Benefits of Urban Greenspaces

At Optima, we approach every project as an opportunity to explore the best possible ways to create harmony between the built and natural environments to allow our residents to enjoy a wealth of benefits that contribute to a healthier, more sustainable environment.

We understand that greenspaces; parks, gardens, conservatories, roof gardens and residential greenery are crucial to the vitality of urban spaces and the communities where they are found. Population density of urban areas is increasing swiftly. By 2050, it is estimated that 68% of the global population will live in cities. According to the WHO, urban greenspaces promote mental and physical health through the promotion of physical activity, mutual understanding, and mitigating exposure to air and noise pollution as well as excessive heat. 

In the summer, the heat generated by human activity, transport, and industry creates an increased need for energy consumption to cool spaces. Green areas have the ability to absorb that heat and pollution. They also allow urban dwellers to stretch their legs and be outside, improving cardiovascular health and relieving stress. Each space also promotes social cohesion, the coming together of people who would usually not interact with each other due to the individualistic nature of urban living.

Landscaping used to create privacy at Optima Signature
Landscaping used to create privacy at Optima Signature

At Optima we recognize the tremendous advantages greenspaces provide. In Chicago, Optima Signature’s inviting plaza filled with lush landscaping and 1.5 acres of amenity space encourages residents to spend time outdoors. Gardens, landscaped fire pits, swimming pools, and outdoor entertainment all radiate the feeling of an oasis within the larger urban environment.

Landscaped Courtyard at Optima Kierland Apartments
Landscaped Courtyard at Optima Kierland Apartments

Optima Kierland Center embraces its surrounding beauty and builds off of it. Lush greenery fills the more than 7.5 acres of open space connecting Optima Kierland’s buildings in a park-like setting. Similarly, Optima Sonoran Village utilizes more than half of its 10-acre property to house stunning landscaping, sculpture, and pedestrian paths while mitigating the desert’s harsh climate. We utilize rooftop gardens and our signature vertical landscaping at Optima Sonoran Village, Optima Kierland Apartments, and will be bringing it to Chicago at Optima Verdana, to create an oasis inspired by its surroundings that contribute to the greater environment. This type of green space brings both beauty and positive contributions to their communities. 

Greenspaces make urban living refreshing, enjoyable and social. And as our cities become more and more dense, urban greenspaces become a crucial part of the ecosystem — and of our enhanced quality of life.

The Environmental Benefits of Vertical Landscaping

Vertical landscaping is a signature feature across Optima communities. In Arizona, we’re easily recognized by the lush greenery that makes itself a key element of the facade at Optima Camelview Village and Optima Sonoran Village. Most recently, we’ve even strategized how to bring our vertical landscaping to the inclement midwestern climate, with plans to incorporate it at our latest development in Wilmette, Optima Verdana.

Photo of Optima Verdana
Vertical landscaping at Optima Verdana in Wilmette.

Besides providing aesthetic value through added beauty and privacy for residents, our vertical landscaping system also serves another important purpose: bringing a broad array of environmental benefits to the natural environments in which we build.

The impact of our vertical landscaping system is something we calculated carefully through extensive design exploration, engineering and a multi-year research collaboration with Arizona State University.

The system, with self-containing irrigation and drainage, provides a haven for urban wildlife, promotes evaporative cooling, re-oxygenates the air, reduces dust and smog levels, reduces ambient noise, detains stormwater and thermally insulates and shields residents from the desert sun, all of which contributes to a sustainable urban environment.

Residents and community members alike also get to experience the direct impact of being surrounded by nature, with the vertical landscaping system serving as a connection to nature. Wherever this connection is made, it fosters a lifelong appreciation for the environment around us, and helps us all to stay mindful of the role we play in keeping that environment safe.

Exploring Optima Communities: Camelback Mountain

One of the reasons we were inspired to move to Arizona was our love for the surrounding desert landscape, and that same passion still resonates across our Arizona communities. An iconic landmark in the greater Phoenix area, Camelback Mountain is a prime example of the way nature informs our own designs through its neighboring Optima communities, Optima Sonoran Village and Optima Camelview Village. But Camelback Mountain has its own distinct allure, fostering a wide-reaching and beloved sense of community for many in the area.

Camelback is located in the Camelback Mountain Echo Canyon Recreation Area between the Arcadia neighborhood of Phoenix and the town of Paradise Valley, and is named after its distinct shape, which resembles the hump and head of a kneeling camel. The site has long held significance to Native tribes and settlers in the area, and by the early 1900s, there were strong efforts to keep the mountain protected and preserved. The surrounding area saw major development, but in 1965, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater helped secure the higher elevations against development. The area became a Phoenix city park in 1968.

View of Camelback Mountain from Optima Camelview Village
View of Camelback Mountain from Optima Camelview Village

Phoenix offers seven breathtaking mountain summits to climb, and Camelback Mountain has the highest, reaching 2,704 feet to provide the best views in the area. Climbing to the summit is considered a right of passage for many.  Hikers can choose from two trails to reach the summit: Echo Canyon and Cholla. Both trails are difficult, with Echo Canyon being the steeper of the two and Cholla being the longer option. Luckily, there are a few less strenuous trail hikes as back-up options, as well. Camelback is the perfect place to experience the vast diversity of desert beauty; from colorful granite, to blooming wildflowers, to local wildlife. And since the trailhead is only 20 minutes away from downtown, there are plenty of places to recharge after a long hike.  

There’s a reason why Camelback Mountain is considered one of Phoenix’s Points of Pride; the beauty both on — and off — the mountain top are truly spectacular. 

Team Member Spotlight: Barbie Clemons

Our team is the heart and soul of Optima; the living embodiment of our values in action. We recently sat down (virtually, of course) with Barbie Clemons, Leasing Manager at Optima Sonoran Village, to talk about her journey working with Optima and what she loves most about being part of our team.

Tell us a bit about your background and the role you play at Optima.

I started out in sales and customer service before working at Optima. My experience ranged from working at a clothing company to managing bars and restaurants. I loved being in a fast-paced environment but wanted something new and got my real estate license.

An Optima recruiter brought me on board as a Leasing Agent at Optima Kierland. At Kierland, we leased up so quickly. The pace and the environment fed my soul. So after a year of different positions at Optima Kierland, I moved to Optima Sonoran Village and headed lease-up on the new tower. I was excited for the challenge: we were already 100% leased at Kierland and I couldn’t wait to work on the 800 units here. Within a year, I was promoted to the Community Manager/Leasing Manager role. It’s been amazing. I love this company and I love what I do.

What drew you to Optima initially, and what’s kept you working there all these years?

I was drawn in by the opportunity to use my skill set in a new environment. I’d done retail and hospitality and wanted something that would mix the two of them together — because in hospitality, I missed the sales portion, and vice versa. At Optima, I get to do both, all the while building long lasting relationships with residents and finding them homes they’ll stay in for a long time. 

I’m constantly challenged here: can we hit this number, can we get to the next level? It’s very progressive and that’s my favorite part about working here. This is a company looking to change and move and evolve, instead of doing what everyone else does.

How do you view collaboration and mentorship within Optima?

What I love about Optima is that it’s a collaborative team and environment. My voice is always heard. No matter what level I was at in the company, I could approach someone and say, “I have an idea, can we try this?” Even on the building side — we’re under this umbrella where we can touch everything. For example: when Optima Kierland was under construction, they asked us for feedback we’ve received and we told them residents want more closet space. The construction team pivoted and included that in the next tower.

Optima has a distinct set of values that really differentiates it from other companies. Which values really speak to the work you’ve done at Optima and your methodologies?

There’s a solution for every problem: that value resonates with me. I’ve worked every position that Optima has on the property management level — I’ve done leasing, leasing manager, and even right now, I’m filling in for a business manager position we have open. So I’ve gotten to be versatile and learn every aspect of the company in order to help out. To live and breathe and be part of a progressive company, you have to be that way. I love, love, love that it’s one of our core values. We can figure it out. Optima is always open to ideas that are outside the box.

What are some things you’ve learned during your time at Optima?

Teamwork makes the dream work. It takes every single person on your team to make properties run and to make us successful — whether that’s construction or our executive team. They really meld the mind; we talk at every level and we get to bring ideas to the table. That’s something I’ve learned and love about this company, and something that I was missing from other companies I’ve worked for. You don’t feel like a number here, you feel like your name and your voice matters. 

person name goes here

Maintenance Supervisor

Glencoe, IL





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