The GIANT Co. plans to open a supermarket under its Heirloom brand of smaller-format shops on the ground floor of the historic Strawbridge’s building on Market Street, a show of confidence that workers and residents will return in force to Center City’s streets as the COVID-19 pandemic ebbs.

The 32,000-square-foot store, one of four new Philadelphia GIANT- or Heirloom-branded locations that the Carlisle-based grocery business announced Friday, is slated to open before the end of 2021, company president Nicholas Bertram said.

The 801 Market St. space will serve visitors to the city’s nearby historic sites, as well as neighborhood apartment dwellers and workers in surrounding office buildings, Bertram said.

“I still believe in Philadelphia,” he said. “Our strategy of growing inside of the city has not really been shaken by the pandemic.”

GIANT has Heirloom stores in the neighborhoods of University City, Graduate Hospital, and Northern Liberties. It also has a larger GIANT-branded store in Northeast Philadelphia along Roosevelt Boulevard near Grant Avenue, along with a recently opened location in Center City’s Riverwalk apartment complex beside the Schuylkill near 23rd and Arch Streets.

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Another full-sized GIANT store was announced earlier this year for Cottman and Bustleton Avenues in the Northeast, and the company is currently building a high-tech warehouse for e-commerce deliveries at 3501 Island Ave. near Philadelphia International Airport.

The other new locations confirmed Friday are large-format GIANT stores. They are:

  • A 46,000-square-foot location on part of a South Philadelphia tract along the Delaware River waterfront where a Foxwoods casino once had been planned.

  • A 40,000-square-foot market at a now-empty lot at Broad Street and Washington Avenue, also in South Philadelphia, where an apartment complex is planned.

  • A 50,000-square-foot store in an apartment building rising at Broad and Spring Garden Streets in North Philadelphia.

The three are slated for completion by the end of 2023, but specific opening dates for each location will be announced later, GIANT said in a release.

Bertram had no updates on progress toward completing construction of a long-planned Heirloom shop in the Headhouse Flats condominium building at Second and South Streets.

GIANT, a unit of Dutch supermarket titan Ahold Delhaize, employs about 600 people in Philadelphia. It anticipates hiring around 700 to staff the new locations announced Friday.

The new Center City location at the onetime Strawbridge’s site will occupy what had been the building’s “Food Hall,” extending into an adjacent bank of inoperable elevators with ornate doors where the former department store’s signature “Il Porcellino” wild boar statue reclines.

The store will have more space for indoor dining than other locations, but will have a similar beer-and-wine tap setup to the one in Northern Liberties, Bertram said.

The 13-story Strawbridge’s building’s top 11 floors are now offices owned by Cohen Equities and Taconic Capital, both of New York, with tenants that include The Inquirer, as well as local offices of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the state Department of Labor and Industry.

Mall companies Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, or PREIT, and Macerich had previously owned the bottom two floors of the building, which connects to the companies’ Fashion District Philadelphia shopping mall — formerly the Gallery at Market East — to the immediate west.

The section of the ground floor that GIANT will occupy is now being sold as a separate property unit to Philadelphia developer Alterra Property Group, according to documents filed in connection with PREIT’s emergence from bankruptcy last year.

» READ MORE: PREIT in deal to sell Center City space, possibly for new GIANT supermarket

Alterra managing partner Leo Addimando said the deal is being finalized. Bertram said GIANT’s lease at the Strawbridge’s building is with Alterra.

PREIT and Macerich retain ownership of the remainder of the building’s ground floor and second floor, which had been occupied by now-defunct clothing discounter Century 21.