Housing is literally on the rise along Green Bay Road in Wilmette, but at least one property will remain on the level, according to its new owner.
Prolific Wilmette property owner Cameel Halim has purchased 637 Green Bay Road, the two-story commercial development at the southwest corner of Central Avenue and Green Bay Road.
Halim said he not only does not plan to tear the building down, he plans to restore it.
“We believe the building is historic and very important in Wilmette and we want to save it,” he told The Record. “The building has a lot of value with the location and the big parking lot in the back and it’s important to stay as retail.”
The building is flanked by two, newer mid-rise rental buildings: Optima Verdana, a six-story development that opened earlier this year at 1210 Central Ave.; and the Residences of Wilmette, a five-story complex that is also home to Carlos & Carlos restaurant at 617 Green Bay Road.
The Village of Wilmette, in its 2010 Village Center Master Plan, identified 637 Green Bay Road and its block, which includes the already transformed 617 Green Bay Road, as a key “opportunity site” for redevelopment. Dedicated to the plan, the village attempted to acquire the building once the previous property owner, the Karas family, began taking offers, according to Village Manager Mike Braiman.
“The Village has been interested in this site for many years, as it’s a key redevelopment site … for a mixed-use development,” Braiman said in a message. “We are hopeful we can work cooperatively with the new property owner to redevelop the site and realize the (master) plan’s vision.”
That may be easier said than done, as Halim does not have plans to raze the building.
“We are restorers; we are not tearing the building down,” he said. “It’s our purpose. We’ve really been successful in Chicago, Evanston and Wilmette.”
While featuring several empty storefronts and second-floor offices, the building is currently home to Jerry’s Barber Shop, Salon Del Lago, Wilmette Glass Company and, until recently, Lawrence Dean’s Bakery, which closed up shop with the owners retiring.
Wilmette Pet Shop is the other highlight of the retail strip; however, its future is in question as the owner battles health concerns. Halim said he is in discussion with Wilmette Pet in hopes of keeping the business alive.
Halim owns several other building in Wilmette, including 1137 Greenleaf Ave., which is home to Buck Russell’s among other storefronts; 111 Green Bay Road, which is now the Greek restaurant Taverna Naxos; the adjacent building, 123 Green Bay Road, which Kurt Saphir Pianos formerly occupied; and multiple buildings along Ridge Road north of Wilmette Avenue.
Halim said he plans to renovate 637 Green Bay Road and add an elevator and more. He expects work to take two to three years.
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