Winnetka shelves plan for billionaire’s private beach wall

The local park district withdrew plans to build the wall between the park and the billionaire's property after nearby residents complained

Shore Capital Partner's Justin Ishbia and Lake Michigan beach (iStock, Shore Capital Partner)
Shore Capital Partner's Justin Ishbia and Lake Michigan beach (iStock, Shore Capital Partner)

Officials in Winnetka, a community on Lake Michigan about 20 miles from Chicago, dropped plans to build a seawall between a public beach and a local billionaire’s property after public outcry.

The local park district withdrew its plans to build the wall after dozens of Winnetka residents expressed their disapproval, according to Crain’s.

The proposal would have put a six-and-a-half foot steel wall built atop stone breakwaters on park district property, not the residential property next door. The property in question is owned by billionaire Justin Ishbia, the head of Chicago-based private-equity firm Shore Capital Partners.

The proposal came after Ishbia proposed a land swap deal with Winnetka Park District that combined two Winnetka parks that were separated by an individual residential lot. The land swap would allow the park district to combine its Elder Lane and Centennial parks — giving the combined beaches a full 1,000 feet of shoreline.

An entity named Orchard 2020 paid a combined $23.9 million for three lakefront estates in Winnetka, according to Crain’s. The Chicago Tribune later identified Ishbia as the person behind the LLC.

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The agenda for the park board meeting Thursday said the body will hold a closed session with the property owner’s representatives about the project. Park district officials didn’t respond to requests for comment from Crain’s.

Opponents say the plan would inspire other wealthy shoreline homeowners to build these types of seawalls, effectively closing off public views of the shoreline, “a treasure of going to the beach in Winnetka, or almost anywhere on the North Shore,” Winnetka homeowner Laurie Petersen told Crain’s.

Beyond those who spoke during public meetings on the proposal, 1,400 people have signed a petition opposing the wall.

It’s unclear whether the park district and Ishbia will pursue the wall again or if the project is not moving forward.

[Crain’s] — Miranda Davis

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