Sandberg building in downtown Wheaton put up for sale
A prime piece of real estate in downtown Wheaton -- occupied for decades by a cavernous men's clothing store -- has been put up for sale a year after the death of the shop owner.
Robert Sandberg kept his namesake store filled with eccentric ties, old sports memorabilia and offbeat merchandise that had been gathering dust in the year since he died from injuries he suffered in a July 2020 car crash.
Sandberg's family has now listed the corner building for sale or lease. Dominic Carbonari, executive vice president for real estate brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle, is marketing the property at the northwest corner of Main and Front streets.
"The profile is one of the highest in the community," Carbonari said Monday.
The building has received "quite a bit of interest," with Carbonari hearing from local businesses wanting to expand their footprint, among others eyeing the property.
"I thought my phone was going to melt," Carbonari said.
He's talked generally with city officials but plans to connect more formally with them this week to understand their vision for the building.
"I think it could be a nice boutique restaurant, quite frankly," Carbonari said.
The building likely won't be torn down, Carbonari said. It has 6,912 square feet of space on each floor and no official asking price, Carbonari said. He expects the storefront will be cleaned and cleared out in the next few weeks.
The potential sale comes amid a rejuvenated dining and shopping scene downtown. Seven new businesses opened in the pandemic year, Downtown Wheaton Association Executive Director Elle Withall said. Events such as "Frida Fridays," a celebration tied to the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the College of DuPage, have drawn thousands of visitors.
Several property owners within the downtown already are looking at the space in the Sandberg building, Withall said. She envisions an anchor business that could complement the other development around downtown.
After Withall posted about the property listing in a Facebook group, dozens of people offered a range of ideas for the property. Many suggested a retail or restaurant use, while others hoped to see a bookstore or cookware shop.
"This is one of those properties where the interest is really, really high, and it's going to take a lot of partnerships and a group effort to get it across the finish line and make it a great space and a great use for a downtown that has become vibrant and is now on the map," Withall said.
While the storefront stood unchanged, the city three years ago redesigned the streetscape outside the front door, replacing sidewalks and creating a plaza area with outdoor seating and a fireplace at the base of an obelisk.
"It really gives someone kind of that front door into the corridor of Wheaton there," Carbonari said.
Sandberg opened his first men's 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. Sandberg fought the city's efforts to take his properties, once bringing his case successfully to the Illinois Supreme Court.
His most prominent building held his inventory of men's clothing. The upper floor previously housed apartments and offices.