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The Food Emporium supermarket on Ninth Avenue and 55th Street will shut down September 22 but the one-story grocery will not be razed to make way for a residential building. Despite published reports, the new owners will seek out a net-lease tenant to keep the building in the black while the economy stabilizes and ongoing developments in the area are completed.

The buyer is local real estate investment firm Altman/Burrack Partners LLC, an affiliate of Murray Hill Properties. Partners Earle Altman and Steven Homstock tell that the sale will close on September 14 but that no date for shutting down the supermarket has been set. But a draft press release obtained by states that the 62-year-old grocery store “will be closing its doors on September 22nd.”

The document, dated September 27 and originally faxed from Murray Hill Properties offices, names Altman and Homstock as well as Gregg Schenker and Joseph Del Vecchio as buyers and claims “a number of quality tenants are actively working on designs to decide how to best utilize the existing space and lot, which contains approximately 30,000 sf.” The release says the property will be available “as is” at $1.5 million net per annum, or $50 per sf on a long-term lease.

City documents obtained by dispute the size of the Ninth Avenue property, listing it as roughly 10,000 sf, a figure that Homstock calls “absolutely incorrect.”

Homstock yesterday confirmed the partners’ plan to net lease the property but would not identify prospective tenants or disclose terms of the sale. And while the city estimates the property’s market value at $2.6 million, Homstock claims current owner A&P recently spent $4 million on building improvements at the site.

According to Homstock and Schenker, a net lease on the property would buy the partnership time to decide how to develop the site later. He says there is “a strong likelihood that the city will rezone that neighborhood,” loosening restrictions on building height, density and use. “We’d be thrilled to rent for five or 10 years. Things can only get better and better,” says Schenker. They say decision to seek out a net-lease deal was also predicated on neighborhood gentrification, particularly the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater building slated to be built directly across the site from the Food Emporium site and the nearby Columbus Circle redevelopment.

Homstock says he doesn’t anticipate any local opposition to the deal. “It hasn’t been an issue. It’s just a business decision by A&P,” he tells But John Fisher, who runs neighborhood watchdog Web site Hell’s Kitchen Online, says that aside from lamenting the loss of the supermarket, the neighborhood is wary of the potential scope of future redevelopment at the site. “They probably want to sit on it until the economic cycle changes and then put up some gargantuan thing of 15 to 20 floors,” Fisher tells “I think there would be tremendous community opposition.” Fisher also claims the deal stipulates a “restrictive covenant,” prohibiting the use of the site as a grocery store or pharmacy.

Food Emporium employees confirmed the store would be shutting down operations on the 22nd but A&P officials would not comment on the sale.

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