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Philadelphia market sets opening day

by Tad Thompson | February 09, 2011
After a decade of discussion and frustration, "It is in stone" that the new Philadelphia market will open April 3.

John Vena, the spokesman and a board member for the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market, told The Produce News Feb. 10 that the move into the new market would begin March 1. The market operators will then have just over a month to set up their stores and prepare for business in their new venue before opening for business the first Sunday in April.

Over the last decade of planning, which involved several changes of location and odd experiences -- such as having what was considered an inevitable construction stopped on the site by the nation's first recorded bald eagle nest in an urban area -- the market move will be welcomed by all involved.

Once construction on the final site began, the new market was scheduled to open in October 2010. Mr. Vena is highly confident that the April 3 move-in date will stand.

The latest delays came because the 600,000-square-foot enclosed market "is a very complicated project," Mr. Vena said. "There are a lot of moving parts. One of the things that caused a delay was the refrigeration system, which was slow to come together because of the size of it. It took a couple months longer" than expected "to get it assembled properly." The refrigeration first had to be tested in sections and then tested as a whole unit. "By the time everything was assembled and properly adjusted to test, the weather was cold so it was difficult to run the system the way you would like to test it -- to test the functionality of everything."

Mr. Vena said that the refrigeration system is "the heart of the building. It is one big machine, which slowed things down as a result." Now the board and market Executive Director Sonny DiCrecchio are "convinced the system will be fine," said Mr. Vena.

The completion of the building was also slowed because each market business ordered customized features to its units, so "there were a lot of things to be checked, adjusted and modified," he added.

Some market modifications were required for high traffic areas. Those matters had to be resolved before the market could open, he said.

Mr. Vena confirmed an earlier report that "the floors were too slick." The floor of the new market is "very, very hard. Because of that, it will be a good floor for many, many years. It will outlive all of us. But we found it was a little slippery in spots because the floor doesn't absorb any water. That won't be an issue when we move in."

Those problems "are out of the way now,” he continued. "We have signed the papers, so technically the building is ours. The builder still has a lot of work to do. He is as anxious as we are to get it done before we move in and start business. That will be less stressful for everyone."

Mr. Vena said that those involved are highly energized by the impending move. Now the time has come for plans to become reality, but some matters such as ideal sales floor layouts will have to be determined when the move is finally made.

"The board of directors has put in a lot of time and effort on this. But that building would not be standing if not for Sonny DiCrecchio," Mr. Vena stated. "Because from the beginning, if not for his persistence and the strength of his will, it never, ever would have happened. We had a lot of support from former Governor Ed Rendell and former state Senator Vince Fumo. But Sonny dragged this project over and around every obstacle to get us to this point."