LINCOLN SQUARE — Neighbors worried about the fate of Jimmy’s Pizza as developers pitched plans for a new apartment complex at the corner of Foster and Lincoln avenues Tuesday night.
Grand Properties Acquisitions LLC aims to tear down the two-story building that houses Jimmy’s Pizza at 5155-5159 N. Lincoln Ave. and build a five-story building with apartments and ground-floor retail in its place. Almost unanimously, the crowd of 25 neighbors told the developer they were concerned about what would happen to Jimmy’s Pizza Cafe, a popular New York-style pizza shop that’s served Lincoln Square since 2011, once the building is demolished.
Rolando Acosta, the developer’s attorney, told neighbors who gathered at the 40th Ward office, 5620 N. Western Ave., the developers aim to “get some kind of nice user that would generate some excitement along Lincoln Avenue,” but it is possible Jimmy’s could reopen in the new building.
“Not that the users that are there aren’t generating excitement, but something new to create more of a retail presence, particularly because the building is on a hard corner,” Acosta said.
In addition to Jimmy’s, the first floor of the building houses La Cabana De Don Luis and Kenias Bar. The current owner of the building was not at Tuesday’s meeting.
Jimmy Kang, owner of Jimmy’s Pizza, and Jose Mejia, chef at La Cabana De Don Luis, both learned of the plan to tear down the building from Block Club earlier this month.
Igor Michin, principal at Grand Properties, said he hasn’t spoken to the current tenants because the building purchase hasn’t been finalized. He expects that sale to close within the next 30 days.
Neighbor Rachel Veals asked the developer to consider how the plan will impact Jimmy’s, a “hallmark of the neighborhood.”
“I know you have this vision of flipping the whole thing to fantastic retail, and that’s awesome,” Veals said. “But Jimmy’s happened organically. The guy had an idea, showed up in a shitty building but has become a huge success and is a hallmark of the neighborhood.”
Acosta said he’s also a fan of Jimmy’s and especially likes their garlic knots. The developer would have no objection to the business opening in the new development, but Jimmy’s would need to relocate during construction, he said. Rent in the new building would be more expensive, too.
“We have no objections to Jimmy’s coming back to this building. But obviously we have to sit down with the owners of Jimmy’s and go through the economics because this space will be slightly more expensive because it’ll be new,” Acosta said.
If all goes well, demolition could begin as early as this summer, Michin said.
The building would feature 40 apartments, ground-floor retail space at the corner, two designated affordable work-live storefront units and parking for 20 cars.
Developers heard about Ald. Andre Vasquez’s (40th) plans for an arts corridor on the northern half of Lincoln Avenue in the ward and said the work-live storefronts were added for potential artists who want to move and work in the area, Acosta said.
Four of the apartments would be designated affordable as mandated by the city’s housing rules. The two-bedroom, 1,000-square-foot apartments would rent for an average of $2,000 per month.
Still, Veals and other neighbors worry the developer doesn’t have an incentive to keep Jimmy’s in its plans for the corner.
Kang was not at Tuesday’s meeting, but later told Block Club he was unsure of his business’s future in the neighborhood. He’s going to wait until the developer closes on the building to make any decisions.
“I’m grateful for the people who showed up and were worried about us,” Kang said.
Vasquez was not at Tuesday’s meeting. Geoffrey Cubbage, 40th Ward director of policy and economic development, led the meeting in his place. He told neighbors the alderman has yet to decide whether he’ll support the zoning change the developer needs.
Neighbors can submit feedback to Vasquez’s office related to this zoning request online. The final day to submit online feedback is Feb. 4.
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