A Chicago billionaire is scrambling in an upscale Lake Michigan neighborhood after razing coastal cliffs on his property to make way for a massive $44 million mega-mansion.
Justin Ishbia, 46, who co-owns the Phoenix Suns NBA team with his brother Mat, is already hard at work building his new home in Winnetka – where the cliffs on his 3.7-acre estate have been completely leveled and all greenery has been removed.
Since 2020, the $2.7 billion private equity mogul has acquired four shoreline land parcels, three of which he has combined to build his dream home with 68,000 square feet of living space and both indoor and outdoor pools.
But Winnetka Village Council trustees are now struggling to decide whether to give lakefront homeowners complete control over the cliffs on their properties, or whether the village should regulate them to ensure the lake’s edge doesn’t suffer from ‘irreversible erosion’.
They hosted a session on September 12 to consider introducing regulations for “bluff escarpment” areas along Lake Michigan in Winnetka, where the median home price is just under $1.5 million and the median household income is $417,007.
Justin Ishbia talks to the media before Mat Ishbia’s introductory press conference on February 8, 2023 at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona
A view over idyllic Lake Michigan, where Justin Ishbia is building a $44 million mega-mansion
A trustee Tina Dalman said construction could have been kept under control if there had been regulations – and the moment to stop the project would have been back when Ishbia petitioned the council to merge its three properties into one .
“That’s where that could have been stopped if we had more control, but we didn’t,” she told the Chicago Tribune.
‘From now on, that building will be built in accordance with the regulations, without deviations. I think that is the core of the problem.’
Village President Chris Rintz asked the council how concerned they are about construction in Ishbia. Rintz said, “It’s big. There’s a lot of it. People are afraid.’
Meanwhile, Joni Johnson, former chairman of the village’s zoning board, painted a clear picture of the libertarian area, revealing that it had previously refused to give authorities the power to block these types of mega-projects.
She argued that the village now ‘got what it deserved’.
‘This city is actually very libertarian. It could barely pass a leash law,” she told the newspaper Daily BeasT.
She claimed that during her tenure, even modest affordable housing proposals caused “hysteria” before being rejected.
The council brought in Caleb Barth, a marine engineer with Baird and Associates, to explain how cliff removal can lead to damaging erosion but can be done safely with regulations.
‘Projects can be well engineered. You can remove parts of the bluff. You can engineer them, put in retaining walls, put in foundations that can prevent bluffing,” Barth said.
‘As long as engineers exercise a standard level of care, impacts can be limited and ultimately what is done on the cliff does not necessarily impact coastal processes.’
During the session, other lake property owners spoke about protecting the shore.
“If there are gaps in our existing rules and regulations, gaps in safety and soundness, then those need to be filled,” said resident Leann Pope.
Ishbia’s exact plans for the house remain a mystery — and it seems the cliffs aren’t the first bump in the road for the project.
The business magnate tried to trade his fourth parcel of land with the village in exchange for land the village owns among the three he is now developing – but the deal fell through.
Before the council’s vote to consolidate three of the four parcels on Dec. 6, Justin’s wife Kristen Ishbia tearfully addressed the trustees about having to put their dreams on hold.
“When we first purchased a property here in Winnetka in the summer of 2020, we thought we would be able to send our son to preschool here.
“Unfortunately, as time passes, we will no longer be able to build our house,” Ishbia said.
‘Our children miss the fact that they can go to school here, play in our garden and make friends in the neighborhood. They are missing the opportunity to realize our dream of a quiet, authentic life in the suburbs.”
According to Patch.com, Ishbia is now on track to spend a record $77 million on the project. His brother is building his own 60,000-square-foot mansion in Michigan, which will have its own amusement park.
Ishbia supported his wife Kristen, who broke down in tears during a village council meeting in Winnetka on December 6
Justin Ishbia (left) and his brother Mat (right) are co-owners of the NBA’s Phoenix Sun’s
Mat Ishbia is currently building a 60,000 square foot mansion in Bloomfield Township, Michigan
According to The Daily Beast, nearby users on the Nextdoor app mocked the billionaire for the construction.
One user called his planned home “a cathedral built to worship greed, narcissism and general disregard for nature.”
“This house will become the ‘Michael Jordan House’ of Winnetka in 30 years and will never be sold again,” wrote another.
Ishbia defended his project to The Daily Beast. “Some people don’t have all the information,” he said, but “everything we do is completely permitted.”
His team, made up of “some of the best architects and the best builders,” worked diligently to “follow all the laws,” he added.
Ishbia did not comment on the size of his new home, other than to say community members include the basement in their square footage estimates.
He claims that the trees were removed only after consultation with a village forest officer and that they will be replaced at the required density after completion of construction.
He also said that “the bluff will be restored in accordance with the permits we have received,” but admitted that it will not look the same as before.
Communications Manager for the Village of Winnetka Josie Clark said they have no explanation on this.
DailyMail.com has contacted Justin Ishbia for comment.