Owners of existing Associated Supermarkets and Key Foods said they have begun researching the property at 69th Avenue and 195th Lane to gauge whether such factors as leasing and development costs as well as local demand would make a grocery outlet a good fit inside the now vacant 15,000-square-foot building.The strip mall lot was put back on the market last month when Pathmark, under mounting financial and community pressure, pulled its bid with Federal Realty to build a 50,000-square-foot store.Since then area civics have been waiting anxiously for a more manageable-sized supermarket to move in and fill the community's need for a one-stop food shop.David Mandell, who owns three nearby Key Foods, was thrilled that lease options for the site were back in play. After speaking with Federal Realty Monday, he said the rent figure it quoted of around $40 per square foot seemed steep but "definitely viable" and he would start looking into negotiations next week.But money may be tight, he said, since his company, Gemstone Supermarkets, which operates a Key Foods on Springfield and Hillside avenues, just bought another site on 69th Avenue in June."We might be a little tapped out is my only concern," he said. Another interested retailer, Associated operator Angel Fernandez, was less optimistic when Federal Realty told him rent would cost more than twice what he was paying at his Associated in the Bronx. "I'd do good business there," he said. "But a supermarket my size would not survive."Chris Weilminster, vice president of leasing at Federal Realty, said through a spokeswoman that he could not comment on costs while negotiations were in progress.Maria Deinnocentiis, head of the Utopian Estates Civic Association, suggested that the high prices were indicative of Federal Realty's drive to make a profit rather than conform to the neighborhood's desires."They're not working with us at all even though they've said they wanted to," she said.Still, Fernandez, who has owned and operated several city supermarkets in the past, said he remained interested enough to research the property. Since selling his last store about six years ago, the 58-year-old Dominican and his family have been running the Bronx Associated for a friend who lives in Santa Domingo.But now he is ready to open his own store again, specifically in the borough, which he said offered a more convenient commute from his home in New Hyde Park.Both Fernandez and Mandell said any store they put in would stay within the dimensions of the existing 15,000 square-foot building.In addition, there's the mom-and-pop atmosphere in Fernandez's stores -- he and his son manage the money, his wife keeps the books and his other son and two daughters handle the customers."What we do is a family thing and that's what communities like," he said.Civic leaders could not agree more."What we need is definitely a small supermarket as had been the case years ago before superstores became the thing of the future," wrote the Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association in its February newsletter.Federal Realty is expected to finalize a deal with a new tenant within the next couple of months, according to spokeswoman Stephanie Blank.The building, that has been empty since a dollar store closed there more than a year ago, connects to a strip of several small stores, including a barbershop, a pizzeria, a Chinese restaurant and a dry cleaners. They, too, have their fingers crossed since a new supermarket would certainly help their businesses."We're looking forward to solving this problem," said the barbershop owner, who has seen several people inspecting the building recently. "Yes, it would be a very good thing."Reach reporter Zach Patberg by e-mail at news@times
©2005 Community News Group
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