Korean grocery chain H Mart has signed a lease to open an 18,000-square-foot supermarket in Cambridge in the space that Harvest Co-op has occupied in Central Square for more than 20 years.
H Mart is moving into the Massachusetts Avenue building in September and planning a multimillion-dollar renovation that will last about six months, said Morris Naggar of the family firm 3MJ Realty, which owns the property.
The Korean supermarket chain, which currently operates a massive store in Burlington, will take over the entire 14,500-square-foot Harvest shop at 581 Massachusetts Ave., along with 3,500 square feet of vacant space next door. Harvest plans to move into a smaller location across the street.
“H Mart is going to be an amazing contribution to Central Square. It is a huge draw with an incredible produce section and fresh, prepared foods,” Naggar said. “But it is different enough with a lot of Asian foods so that it is not in direct competition with Harvest.”
H Mart did not return messages seeking comment.
The Cambridge neighborhood has a variety of food stores, including a large Whole Foods supermarket and smaller independent Asian shops.
The New Jersey-based chain had initially considered a smaller property nearby that was vacated by Blockbuster, but jumped at the chance to open a larger store, Naggar said. H Mart’s location in Burlington has an entire aisle dedicated to noodles, more than a dozen types of the cabbage dish kimchi, and a food court.
The Central Square location is expected to have all of these features but in a scaled-back format, Naggar said.
H Mart, which draws huge crowds in Burlington, has no plans yet to address potential traffic problems in the heavily congested Central Square, and the landlord said he does not anticipate any traffic issues.
Kevin Griffin, publisher of The Griffin Report of Food Marketing, a trade publication for the grocery industry, said H Mart is a well-run organization that caters to a niche demographic.
“They are very, very attentive to the details of running a supermarket,” Griffin said. “For independent players like H Mart, it’s all about the real estate opportunities, and this sounds like a natural fit for them in Central Square to make their mark.”