Chicago’s Gidwitz family to build 500 apartments in Skokie

The project would be the largest residential village in the suburb since 2010

Scott Gidwitz and a rendering of the apartment project (Zola, FitzGerald Associates)
Scott Gidwitz and a rendering of the apartment project (Zola, FitzGerald Associates)

A Chicago family known for its political fundraising and personal hygiene brands is planning 500 apartments in Skokie on land it has owned for about 60 years.

The Gidwitz’s got the green light for zoning changes from the Skokie Village board, according to Crain’s. The 6.2-acre development site, at the intersection of Touhy and Linder avenues, would also include a cannabis dispensary and other retail.

The development will include two seven-story apartment buildings that will be built in two phases — one with 251 units and another with 243.

This is a rare real estate venture for the family, which built its wealth through the ownership and sale of Helene Curtis Industries. Its brands included Suave shampoo and Degree antiperspirant. The family sold the company to Unilever in 1996 for $770 million.

Ron Gidwitz was president and CEO of Helene Curtis, a company co-founded by his father Gerald in 1927. After the company’s sale, Ron became a Republican Party fundraiser and political appointee. He served as Donald Trump’s Illinois finance chairman in his 2016 presidential campaign. As President, Trump appointed him as the ambassador to Belgium and acting U.S. envoy to the European Union.

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His son, Scott Gidwitz, is overseeing the apartment project. During Monday’s meeting he told the village that for the past three years he had been pursuing various development options for the three single-story buildings currently on the property.

Approval was unanimous by the board, but some members of the public expressed concerns about the lack of affordable housing it will bring. Unlike other Chicago suburbs, Skokie doesn’t have an affordable housing requirement ordinance.

The family has owned apartments before, but with some controversy. Ron Gidwitz owned Evergreen Terrace in Joliet, a 356-unit low-income housing complex. It was blighted and known for crime, and the city seized the property in 2014.

[Crain’s] — Miranda Davis

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