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Developer gets permit for residential building at Society Hill Acme site

The Acme Markets store on Fifth Street between Spruce and Pine in Society Hill will close when its lease expires in about two years, according to Philadelphia developer Alterra Property Group, which plans a residential building at the supermarket site.

Leo Addimando, Alterra managing partner, said in an email Tuesday that negotiations to extend the grocery store's lease foundered late last year, prompting the developer to move forward with its plan for an apartment or condominium building on the property.

A conditional zoning permit issued last week allows for the market building's demolition and the construction of a 53-foot-high structure with 65 dwelling units on its second through fifth floors, a well as 43 underground parking spaces.

Current plans call for "fresh food market retail" on the building's ground floor, Addimando said.

"Fifth Street remains a vibrant, mixed-use street that works with the surrounding historic and non-historic fabric of Society Hill," he said. "We will strive to achieve the same for our project."

Neighborhood residents have opposed previous proposals for the site, calling them too large and dense for the area, and have lamented the potential loss of the supermarket.

Society Hill Civic Association president Rosanne Loesch said that her group had been in contact with Alterra about the Acme lease negotiations in recent months, but that it did not know about the developer's latest plans until a zoning-permit notice was seen posted at the site.

Community members now feel betrayed, she said, having delayed a legal challenge to a past proposal by the developer amid the negotiations with Acme.

"The community is outraged by the size of this project," Loesch said, adding that she did not believe the development, as proposed, could accommodate a full-service grocer such as the existing market.

Loesch said she expected discussion of the project to dominate an already-scheduled general meeting of her association Wednesday.

Acme spokeswoman Danielle D'Elia declined to comment on the lease, saying details of such negotiations are confidential until finalized.

City Councilman Mark Squilla, whose district includes the site, said that he had not been aware that Alterra's talks with Acme had ended, but that he planned to coordinate with residents to make sure their concerns are addressed.

The Society Hill store operated as a Super Fresh until the bankruptcy of A&P, its parent company, in 2015, when the store was acquired by Malvern-based Acme.

Addimando said Acme is expected to continue operating at the site until the expiration of its lease in "two years or so." No development or construction is expected before the store's departure, he said.

The project will be subject to review by the Philadelphia Historical Commission because it is located within the Society Hill historic district, and by the city's design review board, Addimando said.

The development site's zoning should otherwise allow for the project to be built without the need for any variances or exceptions from city officials, he said.

"Simply put, we are not seeking any zoning variance relief and have sought no special favors for the project," he said.