Upscale grocery expected to open in Market Square

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Developer Ralph Falbo is close to a deal with the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation to open an upscale grocery in Market Square.

Mr. Falbo said Tuesday he is "a couple of loose ends" away from completing an agreement with the foundation to lease space in the Thompson Building at 435 Market St. for the store.

The grocery is expected to sell household staples, prepared foods and fresh meat, fish and produce. A wine bar also is planned.

The grocery would be the first Downtown since Rosebud Fine Food Market and Deli on Seventh Street closed in March 2010.

Mr. Falbo said he hoped to resolve the few remaining issues by the end of the week. The workers doing renovation work at the Thompson Building Tuesday said their understanding is that a specialty grocery would be taking the space.

PG graphic: Site of downtown grocery
(Click image for larger version)

Arthur Ziegler, president of the History & Landmarks Foundation, did not return phone calls. Mr. Ziegler said in April that he had "general talks" with Mr. Falbo about a grocery at the location, but that he also was talking with other possible tenants as well.

Both men have been working with the Pittsburgh Downtown Community Development Corp. on the project.

The CDC filed an application for a $250,000 Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund grant in April in support of the grocery.

John Valentine, the CDC's executive director, declined comment Tuesday.

Mr. Falbo will be partnering with the owners of Vallozzi's restaurant in Market Square and Hempfield on the grocery. The store may be similar in some respects to Dean & DeLuca, the upscale grocer with stores in New York City, Washington, D.C., and several other cities but not Pittsburgh.

It's not known how quickly Mr. Falbo intends to proceed with the grocery or when it would open. The History & Landmarks Foundation has received a grant under the Downtown Preservation project to restore the facade and replace the windows in the Thompson Building, site of the former Ciao Baby restaurant.

The project comes at a time that there has been increased demand for a grocery Downtown, particularly with its growing residential population.

In a survey earlier this year by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, Downtown residents listed a grocery as their top retail priority. Among their preferences were Giant Eagle, Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's.

However, Rosebud lasted only two years at the Encore apartment complex at the edge of Downtown near Fort Duquesne Boulevard before closing its doors.

While that venture failed, Peter Sukernek, vice president and general manager of Howard Hanna Commercial Real Estate Services, said he believes the proposed Market Square grocery has a good chance of succeeding.

For one, there are more people living Downtown today than two years ago. He also believes the Market Square store is more centrally located and therefore will attract more people.

"I think where [Rosebud] was was inconvenient to people not living on that side of Liberty Avenue," he said.

He predicted Mr. Falbo's grocery would end up being an asset Downtown.

"The time is right," he said. "For the Downtown neighborhood to continue to grow, it needs this amenity."

Highwoods Properties, owner of PPG Place, also has been thinking about replacing the complex's food court with a grocery. While a number of restaurants have left the food court in recent months, Highwoods has yet to announce any plans for the space.

neigh_city - businessnews

Mark Belko: mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262.


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