By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Residents of the city’s Society Hill neighborhood are worried that they could lose the area’s only full-sized supermarket.  But a developer who plans to buy the site says he would like to include a grocery store in the project.

Leo Addimando of the Alterra Property Group says his firm hopes to purchase the Superfresh building, on South Fifth Street near Lombard, later this year, and to develop the site into a mixed-used building, with retail on the ground level and residential above.

But, he stresses, it is very early in the process.

“The current Superfresh has a lease that goes well into 2018,” Addimando tells KYW Newsradio, “so people are getting worked up and some are even up in arms about something that is several years into the future, and something that will be heavily discussed over the next few years as that lease expiration approaches.  And our hope is to find some development plan that at least the majority of Society Hill and other stakeholders are happy about.”

Addimando says that the retail component of the new building would ideally include a food market.

“We think that a grocery store on that site as part of the retail program is a great use. It would be our objective to try to bring a grocery store back,” he said today.

The current zoning of the site allows for greater use of the land (much of the property is now a parking lot) and for a structure up to 3-4 stories high, depending on configuration.  The current building is a single story.

Addimando says residents should realize that with that sort of zoning, redevelopment of the Superfresh is inevitable.

“Whether it’s us or somebody else, eventually its going to get redeveloped, because of how underutilized the site it,” he notes.

Matt DeJulio, administrator of the Society Hill Civic Association, also stresses to members that it’s far too early to get worked up.

“We’re going to protect the neighbors in the immediate vicinity,” he said today.  “But it’s so early in the process, we’re not there yet.  We are definitely on top it, so any concerned neighbors should realize we have a legal committee — we have a lot of lawyers in the neighborhood.  And they’re ready to act if it goes beyond zoning variances, things like that.”

Addimando, the developer, says it is possible his firm would work with the community in order be granted a variance to build higher than what’s currently allowed.  But even without such agreement, he says, this project will move forward.

“I’m sure there will be plenty more public meetings, and if we can find some sort of compromise with neighbors and other stakeholders that allows for a little more height and density, great.  If we can’t, then we’re perfectly happy to live inside of the CMX-2 zoning.  It’s very early in the process, and we have every intention of working with the neighbors to try to find a suitable development plan,” he said.