Wintrust Bank subsidiary Hinsdale Bank & Trust is banking on opening a new Oak Park branch in the space that long housed Winberie's restaurant, 151 N. Oak Park Ave., in the Hemingway District's Scoville Square building.
"While Wintrust is a financial service holding company, it's a huge believer that banking should be hyperlocal," said Dennis Jones, Hinsdale Bank chair.
According to Jones, Wintrust has a "desire to be Chicago's bank."
"And if you desire to be Chicago's bank, you ought to be in Oak Park," said Jones, whose four children attended Fenwick High School. Jones lives in Hinsdale.
Hinsdale Bank is one of 15 distinct banks under the Wintrust Bank umbrella. Hinsdale Bank itself has multiple branches, including one in Western Springs, Riverside and Maywood.
This October, Hinsdale Bank will go before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to request zoning relief to operate a bank out of the Winberie's space. Currently, the location is zoned retail only.
Hinsdale Bank has been interested in opening a branch in Oak Park for many years, but felt the market cornered.
"Our niche hyper local community banking was being done well in Oak Park, through the Community Bank of Oak Park River Forest," said Jones.
With the purchase of the Community Bank by Byline Bank, Hinsdale Bank found an opportunity to enter the Oak Park market and "redoubled" its efforts.
"Byline's a fine bank," Jones said. "I just don't believe they have this hyper local feel of trying to provide the full range of banking services in this community.
Jones began discussions with the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation (OPEDC) in earnest last year. OPEDC has provided a letter of recommendation for Hinsdale Bank to the village of Oak Park.
According to Jones, they looked at several possible Oak Park locations, including the former Pier 1 spot on Lake Street near Harlem. None of the spots made sense.
Jones called the availability of Winberie's location "serendipitous." The lease was signed a couple of weeks ago.
"We think the Scoville Square space, which is in a building that's on the national registry in a neighborhood on the national registry, while in a business district, sort of fits who we are," said Jones. "It's hometown banking."
The Oak Park Historic Preservation Commission gave Hinsdale Bank its approval to make minor changes to the space, including adding windows on its north side to give the interior more natural light. Hinsdale Bank has hired local architect Douglas Gilbert for the project; Gilbert previously served on the Historic Preservation Commission.
Hinsdale Bank intends to create a historical Oak Park display in the end window, which cannot serve as a true window due to safety concerns.
"We're an organization that really likes to fit in; we don't like to be heavy-handed in trying to get into a community because we intend to be there for a long, long time," Jones.
Hinsdale Bank will not put in a drive-thru at the Oak Park branch. However, the space is roughly 5,000 square feet, making it conducive for traditional full-service banking.
"We have all those capabilities for people to bank digitally. But when it comes to small businesses, problem solving, trusted investment advisory and mortgage operations," Jones said, "We still think it makes sense to have a physical presence."
If all goes according to plan, Jones hopes the Oak Park branch will open in the first quarter of next year but says realistically, the branch will likely open in the second quarter.
"Right now, the banking in Oak Park is dominated by two large players, Chase and U.S. Bank and they're very good," said Jones. "We think our approach is just a little bit different, particularly as it relates to being community bankers."
According to Jones, Wintrust and Hinsdale Bank intend to "enhance the fabric of the community," while providing "top notch banking services" with an emphasis on hiring local talent. That goes for the Oak Park branch as well.
"The ideal person to lead that office for us will be an Oak Parker."
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