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GROCER COMING TO REMODELED CITY MARKET

The first major tenant in the long-awaited redevelopment of the City Market has scheduled an opening date.

Save a Lot grocery store will hold its grand opening at 9 a.m. Wednesday, according to Paul A. Pellicano, district manager. The first 200 customers will receive free bags of groceries, he said.

Save a Lot is leasing 20,000 square feet of the complex that once housed the Quality and Jubilee markets and a Rite-Aid drugstore. The Kentucky-based chain, with 245 stores nationwide, offers a full line of groceries, including fresh meat and produce, at 40 percent savings over most supermarket prices, he said. The chain has two stores in Buffalo and one in Lockport.

The City Market location will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.

Alfonse Muto, who has development rights to operate the market under a lease with the city, said Wednesday he is working to secure other tenants for the complex. Muto, the owner of Pine Pharmacy who took over the lease in 1998, hoping to fill the complex with upscale shops and eateries consistent with the Little Italy theme, has found it to be a tough sell. Muto's second plan, to open a coffee and sandwich cafe and indoor bocce courts himself, also fell through.

He said tenants have been reluctant to commit because of the condition of the market and the city's history of failed development attempts.

The City Market, with its prominent location on Pine Avenue at 18th Street, is considered the centerpiece of the Italian village project being jointly developed by the city and the Pine Avenue Business Association. Phase 2 of the public improvements being funded by the city will be completed by summer, according to Robert J. Antonucci, project manager for the Community Development Department. Phase 2 will include paving of the remainder of the southern section of the parking lot, creation of green space along Pine Avenue and installation of new signs and a large four-sided clock. Phase 2 also will include a face lift for the two remaining covered stalls behind McDonald's, where farmers sell goods and produce during the warmer months.

The old open stalls were replaced by new ones at the entrance to the complex that will house Save a Lot. A smaller, covered stall area will be added this year in the center piazza area perpendicular to the main stalls, Antonucci said. He said the new stalls would be covered with a translucent material so they don't obscure the view of the main stalls from Pine Avenue. Public meetings with farmers and Pine Avenue interests will be held before a design is selected.

The completion of Phase 2 will mark the end of the city's $1.1 million investment in the market. Phase 1 included construction of the new stalls, paving the north end of the parking lot, new lighting and demolition of the old stalls. The city's investment of Community Development funds over three years was matched by more than $1 million from Muto plus $400,000 in improvements by Save a Lot, Antonucci said.

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