Winnetka, News

3-story bank rebuild would transform Winnetka’s premier corner, but trustees aren’t sold yet

Winnetka’s most visible corner could soon offer a new view.

JPMorgan Chase hopes to redevelop its Chase Bank location at the gateway to downtown Winnetka at 791 Elm St. — the northwest corner of Lincoln Avenue and Elm Street.

Chase representatives pitched their preliminary plans to the Winnetka Village Council on Tuesday, June 20, explaining that the current facility no longer meets the needs of the business.

“The building by many of our standards is in poor condition,” said Christopher McKenna, an executive with JPMorgan Chase. “It’s in need of repairs … and does not support our footprint.”

McKenna said the business is committed to Winnetka and plans to double its local workforce with the rebuild.

A bank has stood at 791 Elm St. since 1884 and a demolition permit for the 1964 building is subject to a Landmark Preservation Commission review.

The company wants to demolish the current two-story building and on the same 0.39-acre site, construct a three-story replacement with one floor of retail banking (6,800 square feet) and two floors of office space (12,177 square feet each), along with a 26-space underground parking facility. The new site would also include six street-level parking spaces.

The project is the third new building in the area currently in consideration by the Village of Winnetka, joining One Winnetka and Engel & Volkers at 564 Green Bay Road.

The project’s architect Scott Hurst said the new building’s design has art deco influences, includes elements that align with the community, and contains features — such as a front-mounted clock — to honor the site’s past.

The building would peek at 52 feet, seven feet higher than Winnetka’s regulations.

“That height is very important to us as it does occupy the corner in a very prestigious way,” Hurst said. “… It’s really special and recognizable as you’re coming down Green Bay Road.”

Hurst said construction of the new building, including demolition of the current one, would take just over a year.

Trustees responded with mixed reviews.

While the entire board praised the company’s desire to continue its support of Winnetka, Village President Chris Rintz and Trustee Tina Dalman balked at the design.

“I don’t think it feels like Winnetka,” Dalman said. ” … I wonder if there is a way we can step it back.”

Rintz took Dalman’s thoughts a bit further, saying he doesn’t see the design’s connection to downtown Winnetka.

“When you say (the design is) contextual, I don’t see a lot of Winnetka context,” he said.

Trustees also expressed concerned over the building’s height and the project’s parking volume — both of which would need variances.

Trustee Bob Dearborn wondered if the developers could sacrifice some height on each floor to bring the overall height down. And Trustee Rob Apatoff said doing so would have “great impact” on the council’s opinion.

The council also questioned if 32 parking spaces was enough to accommodate 80 or more employees that the bank is expecting to occupy the new building. JPMorgan Chase representatives said they hope Village parking and commuting workers will limit the branch’s need for on-site parking.

Rintz also criticized the company’s suggestion for “compensating benefits,” a requirement of any project that requests exceptions to Village regulations. In its preliminary application, JPMorgan Chase said its compensating benefit would be the building’s sustainable strategies, such as responsible building materials.

“I don’t see the public benefits,” Rintz said. “Think a little more about what you’re going to leave behind for the community.”

The council’s concept plan review was an early step in the public process. Armed with the trustees’ initial feedback, JPMorgan Chase can file a preliminary planned development application that will go before the Planned Development Commission and the Design Review Board.

The two committees will pass their opinions of the plan to the Village Council for a final review.

The project is also seeking a demolition permit; however, the Landmark Preservation Commission decided on June 19 that it needs more time to consider the proposal.

A bank has occupied the site at 791 Elm Street since 1894. The existing building was constructed in 1964.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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