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Reprieve on the table for Society Hill Acme, as neighbors, developer wrangle

Alterra Property Group says it will jettison proposals for a residential building on the property if community members agree to back a plan to update and expand the grocery-store building instead.

Society Hill may not lose its Acme Markets store after all.

Leo Addimando, whose Alterra Property Group owns the supermarket site on Fifth Street, between Spruce and Pine, said he'll jettison his proposals for a residential building on the property if community members agree to back a plan to update and expand the grocery-store building instead, among other concessions.

"We're focused, and we hope the neighbors are now focused, on sitting down and hammering out an agreement where we can keep Acme as a long-term tenant," Addimando, Alterra's managing partner, said in an interview Thursday.

If Alterra and the neighborhood group come to terms on the supermarket plans, it could end a months-long dispute that began early this year when Addimando secured permits for apartments or condos at the site, saying that negotiations to extend Acme's lease had foundered.

Members of the Society Hill Civic Association lashed out at Alterra's plan, saying the five-story, 65-unit residential building he initially proposed would be out of scale in a neighborhood made up largely of single-family townhouses, notwithstanding older residential high-rises such as the 31-story Society Hill Towers complex.

Anti-density sentiment in the community led to passage last month of legislation exempting Society Hill from citywide rules allowing developers to exceed otherwise-permitted height and unit-count limits when their projects have "green" roofs and fresh grocers on their ground floors.

Now, Addimando said, negotiations between Alterra and Acme are back on track, with the two closing in on a deal to extend the market's lease by 30 years – if neighbors sign on to the plan.

The developer said he will tear up his permits for a residential project at the site if community members vow to support a roughly 2,500-square-foot expansion to the 12,000-square-foot supermarket building, along with new signs for the store.

The deal also would call on neighbors to back plans for a single-story retail building on a property across the street – currently home to a liquor store and other shops – that Alterra has under contract, Addimando said, declining to identify the building's prospective tenant.

In addition, the neighbors would be expected to cease efforts to "downzone" parcels in the area with the same small-scale, mixed-use zoning designation as the supermarket site, effectively restricting the height and density of what could be built there, Addimando said

Society Hill Civic Association president Rosanne Loesch declined to comment Thursday on the developer's overture.

Jeffery Guyette, senior regional real estate manager for Acme, confirmed in an interview that the supermarket chain is close to a deal with Alterra to extend its lease.

A significant investment in store improvements will be made, he said, "if we can get the deal done and the neighbors cooperate and everybody hugs and shakes hands."