Society Hill Acme Could Stick Around After All

Though it looked like a foregone conclusion that it would close, the Acme on 5th Street may yet survive. For those that haven’t been following the story, Alterra Property Group put the property at 309 S. 5th St. under agreement in the spring of 2015 with an eye toward demolishing the market and building a mixed-use building in its place. Neighbors were displeased and negotiations ensued, led by Society Hill Civic Association and Councilman Squilla’s office, and those talks led to Alterra reengaging Acme in a conversation about a long term lease. Those conversations were not successful though, and by the beginning of this year Alterra received a by-right zoning permit to demolish the building and replace it with a 5 story building with 65 apartments, ground-floor retail, and 43 underground parking spots.

View of the market

Neighbors were upset, in part because they didn’t want to lose their neighborhood market, and also because some people claimed that the five-story apartment building wouldn’t fit in the scale of the neighborhood. Good thing nobody said that to I.M. Pei in the 1960s, eh? SHCA appealed the permit, though we weren’t optimistic that they were going to have success in the effort. In response to neighbor complaints about the project, Squilla’s office introduced legislation to eliminate height and density bonuses used by the project, but only in Society Hill. It’s important to note that this legislation was not going to impact this project, as the developers already had their permits.

We thought it was pretty much a done deal that the Acme would be demolished and a new building would be getting started here by the end of year. So we were caught entirely off guard when we saw a story today on Philly.com that indicated that negotiations had resumed between the neighbors and the developer, and that the Acme may actually stick around. According to the story, Alterra and Acme are well down the road on a 30 year extension to the lease, but those negotiations hinge on some concessions from the community. The developer has asked for support from the community to expand the supermarket by 2,500 sqft and install new signs. Also, Alterra has the property across the street under agreement and they are asking for support to build a new one-story retail building on the 10K sqft site. Finally, the community will need to agree to give up their efforts to downzone other properties in the neighborhood.

Building across the street

If SHCA and the neighbors accept these terms, the market will stick around until 2047 and perhaps beyond. If they don’t do the deal, the developer can close the Acme and has approved plans to move forward and build a five-story mixed-use building here. The story indicated that negotiations are still ongoing, so we can’t yet handicap exactly what will happen when all is said and done. What we can say at this point is that after flatlining, the Acme on 5th Street has a pulse. But it ain’t out of the woods just yet.