New supermarkets for Center City?

A major supermarket chain has been scouting sites for new Center City stores, according to sources in the real estate business.

Real estate people say a major supermarket chain has lately been scouting sites for new fullsize Center City stores. Possible locations include the Gallery at Market East, where Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust boss Joe Coradino said last week he's looking for "food-related" tenants; the Girard Block redevelopment proposed for 11th-12th, Market-Chestnut, which may unveil a plan in March; Bart Blatstein's Broad and Washington retail site (Bart has done supermarkets before, as has PREIT); and others.

The Gallery has been pitched as the site of a casino, a high-end department store, a Target, various big restaurant concepts in recent years. The Gallery and Girard Block renovation projects have several factors in common: they have been delayed for years; they will likely depend on government subsidies; they will probably look a lot different if the neighborhood Market8 casino project is approved and built.

Which supermarket chain? Acme has been closing, not building. We haven't seen Shop-Rite asking for its usual urban handouts downtown. Fresh Grocer has its hands full up at LaSalle and Temple. Wegman's doesn't seem to do urban. Giant (of Carlisle) has a big store in Northeast Philadelphia, but (like Wegmans) it's non-union. If one of the non-union chains tries to move in downtown, "with labor laws as they are, it's hard to stop them," Wendell Young IV, president of United Food and Commerical Workers Local 1776, told me. "But if they try to come here, they will get some pushback," he promised.