Come Friday, residents will actually be able to head to Girard Avenue in Northern Liberties to enjoy the convenience of a national supermarket chain.
Last week, A&P announced that their 51,000-square-foot Superfresh store at 2nd Street and Girard Avenue will celebrate a grand opening this Friday, Aug. 26 at 9 a.m.
The sprawling commercial space with a rubble-strewn, vacant interior facing Girard Avenue on the first floor can be deceiving, but all the action is on the second floor of the property.
A&P spokeswoman Natalie Miyake said that space would be ready for patrons by the end of the week, with an early opening for those who want to avoid the pomp of the grand opening and just get some shopping done.
“It will be open and available to shoppers at 7 a.m. on Friday,” said Miyake.
While such corporate openings are usually droll affairs, those familiar with the long and contentious effort to bring the supermarket to Northern Liberties have real reason to rejoice.
For years, residents bemoaned the lack of a convenient, one-stop place for groceries, and pressed developers to lure a big chain to the area. And, for a long time, the notion seemed like a pipe dream — big supermarkets just aren’t interested in urban areas and the challenges they pose, and besides, the demographics just aren’t attractive enough, hopeful residents were often told.
But, as the years went by and Northern Liberties snowballed as a development hotbed, that picture began to change.
Then, Bart Blatstein — owner of Tower Investments and undisputed king of development in these parts — whetted neighborhood appetites when he announced that a supermarket would be the cornerstone of his Piazza at Schmidts’ northernmost stretch.
Located at the corner of 2nd and Girard, the site would even pay homage to the old Schmidts Brewery with an updated take on the clock tower that once graced the site.
In Feb. 2010, Blatstein announced that store would be a Pathmark and held a groundbreaking ceremony boasting 150 union jobs.
Then began the waiting game.
Neighbors eagerly watched as the steel building sprung from the long vacant site, its sleek modernist and glassy skin in place by November of that year. Construction workers even talked about a possible opening before Thanksgiving.
And yet, news of bankruptcy for parent company A&P, along with store closings, loomed over the project and gave fuel to rumors that the site would never actually host a supermarket.
Still, a December 2010 opening date was put forth — and quickly passed. By spring, with Tower in a lawsuit that sought to break ties with A&P, doubts about an opening any time soon seem to plague the neighborhood.
And then, news broke that Blatstein had brokered a deal with A&P — parent company to Pathmark and Superfresh — that would see a Superfresh open by the end of the summer.
Last week, the company made good on the pledge, announcing an opening marked by “a full day of fun activities for the community” with free food samplings, cooking demonstrations and special deals
Mayor Michael Nutter and A&P CEO Sam Martin will attend the event along with other community leaders.
The ribbon-cutting will take place at 9 a.m.
Reporter Brian Rademaekers can be reached at 215 354 3039 or firstname.lastname@example.org