LINCOLN PARK — A developer is proposing an 11-story 225-unit apartment building, which he hopes will bring life to a "deteriorating" stretch of Lincoln Avenue.
Warren Baker, president of Baker Development Corp., wants to tear down the 30-unit Lincoln Centre condominium building, 2518-2540 N. Lincoln Ave., to make way for the new project.
The initial plan, which he stressed was not final, would include a 122-foot building along Lincoln Avenue and a 107-foot-high building along Altgeld Street with 225 luxury apartment units.
The $80 million project would be built on the site of the condo building known for its second-story tennis courts visible from the CTA's Red and Brown "L" lines.
The average apartment in the proposal would be about 900 square feet, with prices starting around $2,000 per month.
The top floor would include about 12 larger penthouse units.
"Lincoln Avenue is broken, and the status quo in my opinion is not OK," Baker told a crowd of about 40 people at a meeting Monday night.
"When's the last time you shopped on Lincoln Avenue? When's the last time you took a walk on Lincoln?" he asked the audience.
According to Baker's analysis, 40 percent of the storefronts — 28 retail spaces — along Lincoln Avenue between Fullerton and Wrightwood avenues are vacant.
While the proposed development would involve reducing the amount of retail space by about two-thirds, the developer said he hopes that adding parking will entice retailers to fill the vacant storefronts on Lincoln Avenue.
The plan is to include 200 parking spaces, 50 of which would be for public use and could be validated at businesses along Lincoln Avenue.
Baker pitched the additional free parking spaces as a "gigantic contribution to the community," which he hoped, along with renovating the Apollo Theater, will serve as a bargaining chip to obtain a height variance.
The current zoning allows for a 75-foot structure.
"We are going to take this leap of faith and build this extra parking and hope the retailers return," Baker said.
Many neighbors at the meeting supported the proposal, stating that anything would be better than the current structure.
"What's there now is the most dilapidated, terrible building sitting in the heart of my neighborhood," said Matthew Brown, who lives directly across the street from the Lincoln Centre building. "There cannot be anything you can do that wouldn't be an improvement over what's there now."
Other neighbors reminisced about when Lincoln Avenue was crowded with pedestrians, who now fill the sidewalks of Clark Street and Broadway.
"Watching Lincoln Avenue fall apart has been very said," said Debra Rosenberg, a longtime resident of Altgeld Street. "I remember being younger and shopping on Lincoln."
Baker estimated that construction would begin on the project a year from the date plans are OKd for the site, and tenants would move in two years from that date.
Both are likely to happen before ground is broken on the Children's Memorial Hospital redevelopment a few blocks southeast of the proposed site, according to Baker.
Baker already owns the two floors of retail space in the building but would need to buy out the 30 condominiums.
"We wanted to give the area a shot in the arm," said Baker's business partner Dan Slack. "Did we make a bold statement? Absolutely.”