“It’s just another good thing gone, and it's all about money,” lamented one customer interviewed by the Post Star.
This glum sentiment was echoed by several other customers interviewed by the paper, even though prospective owner Sonny Bonacio has already adamantly insisted a market is in the works for the site. He reiterated these claims in a short news release chucked into the flotsam and jetsam of the media late Thursday afternoon, but it did nothing to allay the ongoing concerns about what he is planning there.
Fact is many people simply don’t trust the dickering between the Spa City’s most ubiquitous developer and the Capital Region’s premiere grocer. Most simply don’t buy the notion that either has any “commitment to continue serving the center city of Saratoga Springs.” The standard shopper at Ghetto Chopper’s reaction is that whatever replaces their somewhat quaint inner-city grocer will be bombastic, expensive and tailored to the teaming numbers of aristocrats filling the growing number of million-dollar condominiums.
In theory, Bonnacio’s notion of “announcing” his development was the right one: Alert the media well in advance, make sure all editors and producers within a 50-mile radius have a stake in the official announcement and then curry favor with the city representatives so that they can deal with the inundation of overzealous reporter calls and panicked cries from the public. But when you’ve got a broad cross-section of residents waiting with baited breath over the whole issue, it’s best to not put of any announcement, even if it’s for a paltry 24 hours.
Update: On the fifth day, Bonacio said “Let there be project.” And there was a project. And it was good...For those living in a news vacuum, Sonny and Neil(Golub that is) pitched their plans for a new market, about 10,000 square feet smaller than the existing one. The project would be built sometime within the next four years and would likely feature the Central Market brand name the Golubs are looking to resurect. Interesting Sonny. Keep talking. And when you get to the part about beer, make sure to follow it with the term ‘in copious amounts.’
Allowing this sucker to stew is perhaps the worst thing to do, seeing as though the channels of misinformation are now wide-open, as they were last winter when word of the sale was pushed through the public rumor mill. To put it mildly, people are freaking out. And they’ll still be freaking out long after the news vans pack up and the process of change begins its descent through the planning process.
While there are indeed some who simply can’t stand any change no matter the circumstance, there are many others who see the shabby market as part of the city’s collective identity. It’s a scar on an otherwise flawless countenance, but one that illicits a sense of home for anyone who dwells within the city proper for a prolonged period. It’s akin to Salomon Grundy’s or the Pope’s Pizza barn on Broadway; the Ice House when it was a garage where a bucket of rocks cost six bucks and a smile or the Golden Grill during the pre-Putnam gentrification days; and now the YMCA, before the block was leveled for high-rise condos.
All these places were arguably changed for the better. The buildings that stand today are far nicer, carry attractive businesses and arguably add to the economic vitality of the city far more than their respective lots did in their previous incarnations. Just think how many slices of grease pie Paul Amato would’ve needed to sell to equal the business Borders’ does in an hour; likewise at the Stadium. How many families and sports fanatics that fill the bar every weekend would have been content to hang with the rough-and-tumble crowd that once stewed in the juices poured at Grundy’s and then La La’s?
Still, there was a feeling of comfort about these places that’s been steadily erased by the steady drum beat of economic development. The Ghetto Chopper is –or rather was –among the last bastions of this faith, and one that was an all-encompassing center where all walks of life converged. Regardless of Bonacio’s plan, there are going to be many he simply won’t appease, even if he suggests handing out hundred-dollar bills to the first million customers through the door.
It’s a quandary the developer will increasingly face as he molds downtown into his own vision. Keep in mind, his projects have largely filled voids of scrubland in the heart of the city, or vacant stretches of buildings that had no marketable use absent his Midas touch. But rolling over the Ghetto won’t be nearly as easy, even though city officials are already tacitly endorsing a project that hasn’t even been proposed, much less approved. This time, he’ll have to do much more to charm the growing numbers of skeptics of the city.