Winnetka, News

Chase’s revamped rebuild has Winnetka council’s support

One of the largest financial institutions in the world can just about take their Winnetka plans to the bank. 

Winnetka trustees unanimously approved the introduction of an ordinance during their Tuesday, June 4 meeting that grants approval to JPMorgan Chase’s plans to redevelop its Chase Bank location at 791 Elm St., the gateway to the village’s downtown.

Project plans currently call for a new three-story development that will include 8,500 square feet of retail banking and lobby area on the ground floor level and 18,000 square feet of corporate office space across the second and third floors, according to documents submitted to the village.

The development will also include 31 parking spaces — seven of which will be located at street-level while 24 will be underground.

Chase’s current building at the northwest corner of Elm Street and Green Bay Road is a two-story structure that offers retail banking on the first floor and includes corporate offices on the second floor. 

Representatives from Chase first pitched their redevelopment plans to Winnetka officials in June of last year. Trustees, at the time, delivered a mixed review of the project, as they supported the idea to reimagine the building but offered feedback to revise the proposed design, height and parking arrangements. 

Chase officials then presented the project to Winnetka’s Design Review Board in mid-October of 2023.

Board members suggested during that meeting that Chase alter the materials used in its building facade, reduce the overall building height by minimizing the height of the first and upper floors where possible, minimize the amount of glass, and give further consideration to the scale of the building within Winnetka. 

A view of the project from Elm Street.

Lowering heights at several points as well as a reduced amount of glass and shifting from terra cotta to brick were some of the key changes Chase made when it returned to the Design Review Board later in 2023. 

Both the Design Review Board and Winnetka’s Planned Development Commission unanimously recommended approval of Chase’s plans. 

Chase officials briefly addressed the council during the June 4 meeting to highlight some of the changes the project has undergone since it was first introduced nearly one year ago. 

“The architects here have done a great job and they’ve had some terrific ideas along the way,” said Christopher McKenna, an executive with JPMorgan Chase. “I do think the refinements that have been made are quite eloquent.”  

Scott Hurst, the project’s architect, shared similar sentiments.

“Within the past year, we’ve listened very carefully to the feedback that we’ve gotten from all of the advisory boards as well as taking into account the desires of our client here and what they hope for this building,” he said, “and, in our professional opinion, we’ve worked with techniques with brick detailing to deliver something that we’re presenting in front of you today that we all stand behind professionally.”

While the council’s support for the updated project remained strong, some aspects of the development still were met with hesitation from trustees. 

Trustee Bridget Orsic expressed concern over what she described as a heavy “massing” at the project’s focal point: the corner of Elm and Green Bay. Orsic added that she would like to see the front of the building “more narrow.”

Trustee Kim Handler seemed to express a preference toward the first design Chase officials presented, noting that the new design was “not as much of a statement” and saying she would have liked to “see a few more nods to history.” 

Another key topic of concern from trustees is the timing of the project, as its construction schedule could align with the nearby One Winnetka and Engel & Volkers developments. 

Chase officials said at the meeting that the current project timeline calls for demolition of the existing building to begin in September of this year. Under that timeline, the superstructure could be complete in February of next year with the project reaching substantial completion in November of 2025. 

The large-scale One Winnetka development at the southeast corner of Elm Street and Lincoln Avenue is slated to begin demolition in January of 2025 with a targeted completion date in October of 2026, officials said at the meeting. 

Trustee Bob Dearborn said he was “really concerned” about the sequencing of the projects. 

“We need, from our village staff, a pretty robust explanation of how this is all going to work from a timing perspective,” he said. 

David Schoon, Winnetka’s director of community development, said village staff will pay close attention to the development while they’re in progress. 

“Throughout the construction process, staff will continually monitor the construction of each project to work with the development teams to ensure they minimize their impact on the area businesses and residents,” Schoon said. 

Two Winnetka business owners — Theresa Lucas, Good Grapes, and Stephanie Hochschild, The Book Stall — addressed trustees during the public comment portion of the meeting to urge trustees to consider the timing of the construction work associated with the developments. 

Lucas told the council that having simultaneous construction projects on Elm and Green Bay would be a “huge deterrent to consumers.” She also noted that having three large construction projects potentially with overlapping durations would not be visually appealing.  

“I have serious concerns that it will look like one big closed sign around the east and west Elm business districts. That it’s just too much at one time. Perspective matters,” she said. 

The impact of the development projects on parking in the downtown area, which both local business and trustees have routinely noted is already stretched thin, also came to the forefront of discussions Tuesday night. 

“We all know (parking) is a problem,” Orsic said. “We do hear this, we do know that it’s an issue and I think we’re all trying to think of ways to keep the vibrancy going.” 

Despite the concerns trustees highlighted during the June 4 session, officials were pleased with the efforts from the council’s advisory boards in revising the project.

“Personally, I think our lower boards did an amazing job on this project,” Village President Chris Rintz said. “I was so gratified to see that the changes that we made (to our planned development process) four to five years ago actually work. This thing came through the process the way it was supposed to.

“Our professional designers looked at it first, then our planning and zoning people looked at it and delivered us a combined package that I think is really a good piece of work from our lower boards, and when you read the minutes, I think they were very deliberative and did put their best foot forward.” 

Chase’s plans will likely return to the council in two weeks for formal approval. But the project will still then need to go through the village’s final plan review process, which will likely occur weeks after the ordinance is adopted. During that final review, Winnetka officials hope project planners provide specific details regarding how they aim to reduce the massing at the corner of Elm and Green Bay.

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martin carlino
Martin Carlino

Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.

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