Owner Danny Stefanou says that he intends to reinvent the Highland Market in the South Wedge as the go-to place for quick and easy access to fresh, healthy foods.
Stefanou has owned the market at the corner of Linden and South avenues for more than 30 years, leasing it out for the last 21 years. But the building and the property are not in the best shape, neighbors say.
"There are people who have not been happy with the maintenance of the property," says Chris Jones, president of the Business Association of the South Wedge Area. "It does need paint. It needs paving."
Stefanou plans to turn the market, previously a typical convenience store, into a full-line grocery store that he'll run himself.
"Where you can go in and buy everything to make a meal," says Peter Siegrist, preservation planner for the City of Rochester. "So we want vegetables. We want meats. We want fruits."
The original plan was to rezone the property from residential to commercial, but public outcry caused the Planning Commission to reject the proposal. Some neighbors were concerned about the site's future under commercial zoning if Stefanou ever decides to sell, says Mike Mahoney, chair of the Highland Park Neighborhood Association.
"Does he in 10 years sell it to CVS?" Mahoney says. "And there's nothing we can do at that point."
The new proposal keeps the residential zoning, allowing the market as a nonconforming use. Siegrist says that the site's former use as a gas station and myriad other factors make it undesirable for housing.
"Here's an opportunity to get a brand new building, get rid of the stuff that's there now, and provide a service to the neighborhood," he says. "From our standpoint here, I don't know that you're going to do any better."
Stefanou needs approvals from the city's Zoning Board and the Planning Commission. An open house on his new proposal is from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, November 18, at the market, 830 South Avenue. The Zoning Board's meeting on the plan is at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, November 21, in room 223B at City Hall, 30 Church Street.