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New Key Food Plan Includes Bigger Supermarket, Cheaper Apartments

By Leslie Albrecht | November 2, 2016 8:31am
 A rendering released Feb. 9, 2016 of Avery Hall Investments' plans for 120 Fifth Ave., a parcel that's now home to a Key Food grocery store.
A rendering released Feb. 9, 2016 of Avery Hall Investments' plans for 120 Fifth Ave., a parcel that's now home to a Key Food grocery store.
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Avery Hall Investments

PARK SLOPE — Locals will get a bigger supermarket, apartments for lower-income renters, and a say in what kind of grocery store replaces the Fifth Avenue Key Food under a revised proposal for the controversial mixed-use plan for 120 Fifth Ave. unveiled Tuesday night.

Community stakeholders presented a revised plan for Avery Hall Investments' development that was hammered out after eight months of negotiations between neighborhood advocates and the developer.

The look and overall size of Avery Hall's plan hasn't changed — the developer still wants to build two buildings — one six stories and the other four stories — containing 165 apartments and ground-floor retail on the property now occupied by a Key Food that's been a community staple for more than 30 years.

But the developer conceded to several demands locals and advocacy groups made after its February 2016 proposal was met with intense criticism over the size of the proposed grocery store and affordability of apartments.

Locals had leverage to negotiate because the Key Food property is governed by an urban renewal plan and any changes to it must be approved by the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

A negotiating committee of residents, elected officials and nonprofit groups entered into discussions with Avery Hall with three main goals, and won most of them, advocates said Tuesday. Their wish list was for a larger, "community-oriented" supermarket, "deeply affordable" housing including some apartments for families displaced by gentrification, and a say in the development's design and operation.

Avery Hall's leaders didn't attend Tuesday's meeting, but plenty of elected officials were on hand to celebrate the deal, which they called a win for the community.

"This is really about human-scale development,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. "This is about meaningful dialogue and meaningful discussion and negotiation with a developer who actually respects the community. This would not have happened but for the power of the people."

Avery Hall's original plan called for a 7,500-square-foot grocery store with a 15-year lease. The revised agreement calls for a 22,000-square-foot store with a 20-year lease. The existing Key Food is 30,000 square feet.

"We worked extraordinarily hard to be as accommodating as humanly possible to the community wishes and concerns and needs, even though several of the commitments that were made are going to really cost the developer a chunk of the revenues that they might otherwise have realized," said Avery Hall Investments spokesman Ethan Geto.

He added that a supermarket is "probably the least revenue-generating retail use" for the space. "These are developers who are obviously in a business to make money, but they really went the extra mile in terms of being community-minded," Geto said.

Avery Hall also agreed to issue an RFP for the grocery store that will stipulate that the store remain a "community-oriented" grocery with a range of price points and "ethnic products" such as Goya brand items, advocates said. Stakeholders said they wanted to ensure the new store wouldn't be too high-end for the neighborhood, which advocates said would mean no Whole Foods, Balducci's, Eataly or Citarella.

The Park Slope Key Food is one of the more affordable stores in the area, and budget-conscious shoppers have relied on it even more following the closure of the Gowanus Pathmark and Smith Street Met Food.

The revised supermarket will be the second largest in the neighborhood, advocates said, second only to the Stop and Shop on Atlantic Avenue and bigger than the Gowanus Whole Foods. (Though the Gowanus Whole Foods' website lists the store's square footage as 56,000, data on file with the state says the store is closer to 20,000, said Fifth Avenue Committee executive director Michelle de la Uz, who added that FAC also researched the issue with state authorities.)

The large street-level parking lot next to the existing Key Food will be covered with a new building under Avery Hall's proposal, but the development will have 182 below-ground parking spots. Stakeholders negotiated traffic safety concessions including safety warnings at the parking garage entrances. There will also be a public plaza for pedestrians running between the two buildings on the site.

Avery Hall's original housing plan called for 41 affordable units, with eight units for moderate-income families and 32 for low-income families. The revised plan will have deeper affordability: 16 apartments will be for very low-income families, 16 will be for low-income and eight will be for moderate income tenants.

One concession that stakeholders didn't win was permanent affordable housing. The lower-rent apartments will expire after 35 years.

At Tuesday's presentation, attendees were asked to fill out questionnaires asking whether they support the revised proposal. With the community's approval in hand, stakeholders will work with HPD to draft agreements to ensure Avery Hall follows through on the revised proposal.

Susan Pinckney, a mom of three who lives in Harlem but prefers shopping at the Key Food because of its relatively cheaper prices, gave a thumbs up to the new plan.

"It's a vast improvement," Pinckney said. "I really appreciate that the developers consulted with the community and didn’t come in and do what they wanted without community input. The square footage is a wonderful size compared to what it was in the beginning, and there’s affordable housing for people that need a place to live. Everything is going to work out in the end for the benefit of the community and the developer."

Construction is expected to take about three years from demolition to the time a new store would open, stakeholders said Tuesday. There’s no set timeline for the project, and the proposed development faces a key hurdle before it can move forward: the 421-a tax break program for affordable housing.

Avery Hall's development needs the program to pencil out, but it expired last year. The Avery Hall spokesman said he expected 421-a to be renewed next year and for construction to start on the development in 2017.


Community Stakeholders Presentation on Key Food Development Nov. 1 2016 by lalbrecht3207 on Scribd



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