Residents on Syracuse's north side could have a grocery store within walking distance again by the end of the year.
Syracuse's development agency approved tax breaks Thursday morning to help Tops Friendly Markets replace a Wegmans that left this summer.
The Pond Street Wegmans closed in June, much to the dismay of residents in the neighborhood, many of whom are immigrants without access to grocery stores in the suburbs.
"So for all the people who don't have ways to get to all the big grocery stores out in the suburbs, I speak for all those people - as well as myself - because I liked to walk to that store and I look forward to doing it again," Mary Salibrici told the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency (SIDA).
Salinrici said she has already signed up for a Tops rewards card.
A handful of north side residents applauded Tops for moving into "the hood," as one person called it. They also thanked the city for moving quickly to replace Wegmans.
"I look at the pieces of the puzzle and Tops: you’re fitting right in there to the fabric of the north side," Daryl Files said to the agency during the public hearing.
SIDA granted the grocer a seven-year freeze on any increase on property tax from upgrades to the property. Taxes will gradually increase for the next three years until reaching their full value.
SIDA Chairman Bill Ryan expressed some concern that the agency was granting the tax break before Tops had formally signed a lease with the building's new owner, a developer. He urged that the process move quickly. The deal was passed unanimously.
Tops' Director of Construction Mark Stanko said the location fits well into the grocer's business plan.
"Tops likes city stores," he said. "We have them in western New York, we like them in Syracuse and we think it will be a win-win for both the customer and ourselves."
Stanko speculated that an urban grocery store doesn't fit into the Wegmans business model.
With the incentives approved, Tops will be able to sign the lease and begin renovations, according to Stanko. He estimated the store will be re-opened by early winter 2012.
"It didn't hurt that [Wegmans] already had an up-and-running store. There will be modifications, but we won't compromise any of the departments that they had and we'll probably enhance them," he said.
Before ending SIDA's meeting, Ryan said he hoped north side residents would have a grocery store to walk to in time for the holidays.
Tops is also in the process of replacing a P&C grocery store that left Syracuse's south side several years ago.
Renovations are underway there and Tops hopes its new location in the Valley Plaza will be open by the end of October, Stanko said Thursday.
You can follow reporter Ryan Delaney on Twitter @RyanWRVO