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Newport site has uncertain future



Published: Fri, July 26, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Giant Eagle's attorney said a supermarket can move into the building.

By D.A. WILKINSON

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The search for a major grocery store in the city is on again.

It won't be Giant Eagle.

Dick Roberts of Roberts Communication, which represents Giant Eagle, said the Pittsburgh-based supermarket chain won't return to the building it owns at Market Street and Midlothian Boulevard.

The Newport Phar-Mor opened in June 2000 after Giant Eagle pulled out in 1998. Giant Eagle leases the building to Phar-Mor, which is now in bankruptcy. A stipulation in the lease prevented Phar-Mor from renting the building to a supermarket.

Daniel Shapira, an attorney for Giant Eagle, said Thursday the company will lift that restriction. He said if Phar-Mor does not find a tenant in the next few months, the lease reverts to Giant Eagle, which would then try to find a supermarket to move in.

A Phar-Mor spokesman did not return a call.

The immediate future of the building is murky. Phar-Mor has been running "going out of business" ads. Those ads state that the Newport store is not closing.

Close to home

ACTION, a coalition of city and suburban churches, has been pressuring Giant Eagle to help meet the needs of city residents who can't travel to the suburbs to shop.

The Rev. Michael Harrison, ACTION's president, and a crowd of about 60 ACTION members noted at the site Thursday the "here-we-go-again" atmosphere.

But, said Harrison, "We will not quit."

Roberts said rent for the building would be at the market rate, not enough to prevent competition by another grocery.

That's not good enough, according to ACTION's leaders.

Rev. Lewis Macklin II, called Giant Eagle's offer of coupons to draw people to suburban stores "propaganda."

ACTION members said if the suburbs can have nice, full-service grocery storis, the city should have one, too.

The Newport store draws customers from the city's South, North and East sides and was said to be profitable, said Harrison.

ACTION is contacting grocery chains throughout the East Coast in an attempt to find an operator. Nothing, including a co-operative food store, has been ruled out, Harrison said.

wilkinson@vindy.com




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