Wilmette, News

Wilmette Park District, Beth Hillel in talks on property sale

The Wilmette Park District is in negotiations to acquire the nearly 5-acre campus of Beth Hillel Congregation Bnai Emunah, a Wilmette synagogue, according to officials on both sides of the pending deal.

Park District Executive Director Steve Wilson said the two organizations have agreed in principle to several terms, but a formal contract would need approval from the Wilmette Park Board. While no meeting has been set for that open discussion, Wilson said it could be on an agenda in April.

Beth Hillel has owned the 4.8-acre property at 3200 Big Tree Lane — off Glenview Road and near the Edens Expressway — since 1961. The land includes a 54,000-square-foot building that features classrooms, a playground, a garden, more than 150 parking spaces and a main sanctuary.

Last fall, the synagogue announced it was putting the land up for sale, as it hopes to downsize to a more appropriately sized building for its 300-family congregation, said Michael Kahn, the organization’s executive director.

Kahn said once confirming the realistic interest from the district, Beth Hillel held successful board and full-congregation votes to allow the organization’s board president to negotiate with the park district.

“We’re really excited about it,” Kahn said. “Clearly our congregation was. They were overwhelmingly supportive of it. We’re excited to move forward and shift gears into something new and exciting for us.”

Wilson said that, based on consistent community feedback, the park district is always on alert for available, large parcels — “especially in a town that is fully developed.”

Wilson said if the deal is approved, the park district would eventually use the land as added park space or a recreational facility but said the district did not have any preliminary plans for the property.

Kahn and Wilson both confirmed that the pending agreement would allow Beth Hillel to rent and use the building until at least June 2025. Kahn said that is unlikely to be the exact date, but he is grateful the congregation will have time to explore a new home.

“We would by then have secured a new location. That is the hope and I think it’s doable,” said Kahn, who said there’s a chance the Beth Hillel confirms its new home within the next few weeks.

The Wilmette Park District currently manages 23 properties, most of which are located in east Wilmette (on or east of Ridge Road). The Beth Hillel land would give the district another west Wilmette property.

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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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