Monday, April 5, 2010

P&C on Hancock St to close, community considers options

Recently, Tops Markets acquired P&C stores after its parent company filed for bankruptcy.  Now, Tops announces that the Ithaca store on Hancock Street will close on April 18. The P&C at this location has operated for 30 years and served served Northside and Fall Creek neighborhood residents, many of whom do not have cars for grocery shopping.

A group of interested parties has formed to provide input on the future of the property.  Included in the conversation are the property owners, neighborhood residents, representatives from Cornell Cooperative Extension, a clergyman, and a food industry expert from Cornell.  The group is currently drafting a community survey to solicit more input.

Property owners Tony and Irene Petito, who grew up in the neighborhood, are actively negotiating with other food retailers to maintain a food store in the space.  Interested retailers will likely occupy a smaller area of the store (15,000 square feet instead of 25,000 square feet), leaving room for complementary services.

Ideas for the space abound, but are they financially feasible?  The range of possibilities being imagined at the moment? A chain grocery store, an independent grocer, an indoor farmers market, a CSA distribution point, a discount/surplus farmers market, a food pantry, a community kitchen, a deli, catering space, a farmer's diner serving local foods, a coffee shop, food distribution center, and more.  Several retailers have inquired about the space.

During discussions about the ideal future for the property, many concerns have arisen.  Residents are concerned that new food retailers must have a reasonable price point that matches the needs of the residents (although recently Cornell students found that P&C and Tops were more expensive than other local grocery stores).  Plus, any new food retailers will need to compete with Walmart, which is expanding into a superstore.  Complementary services will need to be economically sustainable.

What's certain is that the building will be vacant in a matter of weeks, and ongoing costs will be the burden of the property owners. A concrete plan is required soon.

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