Winnetka Park Board scoffs at Ishbia’s $3M proposed donation 

Dispute centered around Ishbia’s planned $44M megamansion, waterfront land swap

Winnetka Park Board Scoffs at Ishbia’s $3M Donation Offer
Shore Capital Partners' Justin Ishbia (Shore Capital Partners, Getty)

Billionaire Justin Ishbia’s proposed $3 million donation to fund the Winnetka Park District’s beach renovations triggered several members of the Park Board after a recent draft agreement review. 

The Ishbia Family Foundation’s preliminary outline of the donation’s terms drew criticism from commissioners during a recent meeting, several months after Ishbia made the “peace offering” to support the renovation of Elder and Centennial beaches, the Record reported

The tension point is Ishbia’s planned $44 million megamansion in the northern suburb, which has stirred up controversy since its inception and prompted officials to consider regulations over lakefront properties. Ishiba, the founder of Shore Capital Partners, has purchased four Winnetka mansions since 2020 and begun demolishing them to make way for his estate. 

A proposed land swap between Ishbia and the village’s park district has been the focal point of the controversy. Property at 261 Sheridan Road would be given to the district to help it achieve the local government’s goal of bringing together two lakefront parks. In return, Ishiba would receive half an acre of Centennial Park to add to his 3.7-acre homesite so that his lakefront property would be uninterrupted by the park.

Discussions between Ishbia and the park district led to a contentious four-hour meeting, described by park board attorney Adam Simon as a “zealous conversation.” The draft agreement included the Ishiba family’s request for naming rights, a condition later removed by the foundation.

The board’s scrutiny focused on two main contentions: the proposed 100-year lifespan of the beach improvements, including rock breakwaters and a fenced dog beach, and the appointment of Gregg Seiler as arbiter. Commissioners voiced skepticism about Seiler’s neutrality, given his previous ties to Ishbia.

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Commissioner Colleen Root deemed it “absolutely ridiculous” to have an arbiter in the agreement. 

Commissioner James Hemmings rejected the century-long commitment, stating that a “hundred years is way beyond anything that we’ve come close to, and I can’t support it.” The board suggested altering the language to a “reasonable life” provision but members said they could agree to a significantly shorter term, the outlet reported.

Board members also had reservations about Ishbia’s references to  “no strings attached,” payment schedule and potential liabilities.

Despite the heated discussion, no decision was made. Board members aim to convey their thoughts to the Ishbia Family Foundation before any resolution.

Residents, meanwhile, voiced dissatisfaction, describing the agreement as “completely one-sided” and disadvantageous to the community. 

—Quinn Donoghue 

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