Winnetka, News

Winnetka Park Board talks donation offer with Justin Ishbia — but no news is expected for at least a month

Representatives from the Winnetka Park Board met with property owner Justin Ishbia regarding his $3 million donation proposal, but the board’s president said that it’s going to be some time before any details will be discussed publicly.

Park Board President Christina Codo provided a brief update on the donation offer during the board’s regular meeting on Thursday, Oct. 19.

Responding to a Wilmette Park Board solicitation, Ishbia proposed a $3 million donation in September to help fund the Winnetka Park District’s efforts of renovating Elder and Centennial beaches. The offer comes at a time when a proposed property exchange agreement between Ishbia and the Winnetka Park District is considered “dormant.”

Ishbia owns 261 Sheridan Road, which separates the two beaches. The agreement would have merged the two beaches, but in the face of public scrutiny, the Park Board scrapped plans that included the park-splitting property. At Thursday’s meeting, the Park Board voted to move forward with a plan that addresses the issues at Elder and Centennial while ignoring the property exchange.

The Ishbia family also owns a combined four parcels of land that borders Centennial Park to its south.

Codo said that the meeting with Ishbia, which was held on Oct. 10, had five discussion topics, but she said the first one was a request for more time.

She said the Park Board is in the middle of several big projects, including the Elder-Centennial plan — the final designs of which were approved Thursday evening — in addition to the board’s annual budget process.

Codo anticipated it would be at least a month before anything comes out of the discussions.

“I don’t know yet what the timeline will be, but we have a very busy schedule this October, November,” she said. “And so I would look to sometime after that.”

Naming rights were also discussed at the meeting. Ishbia and park officials have discussed the name of the proposed Centennial dog park, a point of contention for some community members and commissioners, with Commissioner Colleen Root in particular voicing concern about them.

All Codo said about naming rights was that “We didn’t come to any conclusion.”

She also said the park district and Ishbia came to an agreement that their respective attorneys will document every meeting, and their notes would be shared with one another and with the Park Board.

Other discussion topics included an update on the Winnetka Park District’s plans for Elder and Centennial and Ishbia revealing that 205 Sheridan Road, the home he’s building just south of Centennial, is expected to be completed in December 2025.

Root asked for clarification on what document the attorneys will be preparing. Codo described it as “a list of issues to be discussed further.”

Speaking directly to Adam Simon, the board’s attorney, Root asked that any information from those meetings be shared with all commissioners.

Codo assured Root that everything will be transparent.

“I think we have adhered to everything we have promised to do,” she said. “We circulated an agenda immediately before we met, which was as soon as we agreed on an agenda. And we’re reporting out the process of that.”

She also said that “when we have a series of meetings, additional agendas, additional report-outs, those will be happening in public sessions.

“And then, as a document emerges and evolves, as it is finalized, it will be shared with the board,” Codo said. “I think it is an appropriate process, I think it’s a public process, I don’t think anybody is trying to hide anything.”

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Peter Kaspari

Peter Kaspari is a blogger and a freelance reporter. A 10-year veteran of journalism, he has written for newspapers in both Iowa and Illinois, including spending multiple years covering crime and courts. Most recently, he served as the editor for The Lake Forest Leader. Peter is also a longtime resident of Wilmette and New Trier High School alumnus.

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