By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — The crowded supermarket at Southbridge Towers is about to get three times bigger.
Key Food will soon move from its cramped, 3,500-square-foot digs to the more expansive 10,000-square-foot ground-floor space on Fulton Street that previously housed Burger King and Foot Locker, said Wally Dimson, president of Southbridge's board of directors.
Key Food will begin renovating the 55 Fulton St. space soon and could open the new grocery store in 10 months, Dimson said.
"It's very good for the neighborhood," Dimson said. "The community has always needed a full-service supermarket."
Many shoppers who were leaving the Key Food recently were also pleased to hear of the expansion, which was first reported by the blog Tribeca Citizen.
"It's about time," said Anthony Camisa, a 69-year-old Southbridge resident. "It's much too small — it's impossible to shop."
Camisa and other shoppers said the store's narrow aisles are hard to navigate with shopping carts or walkers. Residents also lamented the store's small selection, particularly in the meat and produce areas, which each span just half an aisle.
"It will be very good if it will be expanded," said Leonid Sitnikov, 74, a Southbridge resident who said it is often hard to get lamb meat at the store. "If it is bigger, it will be better."
One fan of the current store was Joroda Vanderhorst, 65, who travels down from the Bronx to shop Key Food's sales.
"As long as they keep [the low prices], they'll have me as a customer every week," Vanderhorst said.
Residents said they were glad to see a new use for the Fulton Street storefronts, which have been vacant for months. Southbridge recently declined to renew Burger King's lease after teenagers hanging out nearby attacked a resident. Southbridge put up a fence last year to stop people from sitting outside the building.
Dimson said he expects the fence to come down before the grocery store moves.
Key Food did not respond to a request for comment.
Southbridge also recently leased an interior retail space to local veterinarian Mark Burns, who owns several animal hospitals downtown, Dimson said. The new vet office could open as soon as this summer.
In addition, the Southbridge board plans to renovate other vacant space in the complex to expand the community room for residents and to enlarge the lending library, Dimson said.