'It's in good hands': Sandberg building sold in downtown Wheaton

A prominent building in downtown Wheaton has a new owner.

For decades, the late shopkeeper Robert Sandberg displayed a mishmash of merchandise in his namesake men's clothing store, a now-empty, hulking presence at the northwest corner of Main and Front streets.

More than 2½ years after his death, Sandberg's widow, Karen, has sold the cavernous building for $2,028,500 to a limited liability company associated with Bruce Bond, a driving force in downtown development.

Initial plans include using the first floor for retail, though a restaurant tenant also is possible, said real estate agent Tony Stefancic, who represented Bond.

"It's going to need a significant amount of work, and it's going to require opening the whole thing up," Stefancic said. "It's almost like four buildings in one."

A coworking company had intended to renovate the old clothing store into shared offices. Some city officials questioned if it was the right fit for a space meant primarily to "accommodate pedestrian-oriented retail businesses" under Wheaton's zoning rules.

Still, city council members last May granted a special-use permit allowing the coworking business to take up the main floor of the Sandberg building. But those plans never materialized, and the storefront remained vacant.

"My understanding is that they couldn't secure financing for the project," said Jim Kozik, the city's planning and economic development director.

The building's sale, however, is seen as progress. While the downtown landscape evolved over the years, Sandberg's storefront remained virtually unchanged. It still has a cedar shaker awning.

"All that will come down," Stefancic said.

Bond has become a key player in reviving other parts of downtown. He invested in the transformation of the former Wise Penny resale shop, now a wedding and special events venue called the Moment on Main. That building has an exterior of white brick and large, black-framed windows, modernizing a stretch of Main Street.

Bond is the co-founder and CEO of Innovator Capital Management, a provider of exchange-traded funds, or ETFs. The firm's offices occupy the second floor of a building that underwent a dramatic facade overhaul next to Wheaton Drama. Hale Street Cantina fills the first floor, part of a growing restaurant row on that downtown block.

Now, Bond is taking on the challenge of revitalizing the Sandberg building. The sale was completed last week.

"He just closed on Friday," Kozik said, "but I think it's in good hands."

Sandberg opened his first clothing store in Wheaton in 1958 and later owned several properties downtown. Over the years, the city had tried to purchase or condemn Sandberg's buildings because they had been either vacant or subject to various code violations.

The two-story corner structure dates to 1916. Bond envisions offices for the second floor, Kozik said.

"He's made significant improvements to all the buildings he owns in the downtown," he said, "so I would expect him to do the same with this building."

Sandberg building in downtown Wheaton put up for sale

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