It’s a short Safeway with a long story.
As reported by the Washington Post, the nationwide grocery chain is looking to move forward with new, yet-to-be-fleshed-out plans for a mixed-use development where a low-slung, red-brick Safeway store currently resides just off of Wisconsin Avenue in Tenleytown.
The Safeway, built in 1981, sits with its backside to 42nd Street – the building was built to face away from the main drag – while conversely, Safeway execs are facing a call to action from the Office of Planning and Ward 3 ANC 3E-03 to address specific problems both groups had with a previous version of redevelopment, one which merely raised the Safeway to 2 stories and added a touch of retail.
The problematic PUD was submitted by Safeway in August 2009. Things began to unravel for Safeway as early as October – only two months after submitting plans –when substantial criticism arose from both OP and the ANC. Safeway chose to “indefinitely suspend” its plans in January 2010. OP expressed concerns about various elements of the plan, but was pointedly critical of Safeway’s request for rezoning.
As seen in the 2005 OP land use map (at left) the Safeway-owned land between 42nd and 43rd street and Ellicott and Davenport Street, is a mix of low-density residential (yellow), low-medium density residential (peach), local public land (navy), and commercial (pink).
The yellow-peach areas are what caused Safeway the most trouble, and led to a mixed-use plan.
Designed by Torti Gallas and Partners, the redevelopment was initially meant to expand and renovate the out-dated Safeway store there – which turns (gasp) 30 this year – and also tack on additional retailers on site: a coffee shop, dry cleaners, and florist.
Now, a year-and-a-half since scrapping plans Safeway is back at it, yet, taking it slow, and contrary to what was reported by the Post, Safeway has not yet issued a request for proposals. Craig Muckle, manager for public affairs and government relations in the region, says that Safeway is first gathering input from the community and is paying particular attention to the opinion of residents in the immediate area.
Jon Bender, chair of ANC 3E, noted that he and other ANC 3E commissioners suggested to Safeway more than a year ago that some kind of mixed-use development at the site could make sense.
Given that single-family homes immediately abut the Tenleytown site, he added, the details of the project matter a great deal. "A majority [of ANC3E commissioners] views this development positively in principle, but I think we’ve got a good distance to go before a majority could support a specific project," Bender explains.
Bender observed that Safeway’s preliminary, conceptual description of what it intends for the site raised concerns, and Safeway has stated that - until it selects a developer - it will not discuss significant changes to the project, share detailed renderings, or produce perspective drawings of the view of the development from adjacent residences.
This time around Safeway is looking for a plan that will work, but not before getting the go-ahead from the community, and that community has proven to be a difficult client many times over.
At left: Office of Planning Future Land Use Map (as designated in 2007)
This map shows more accurately that the land in question is zoned for moderate residential and light commercial development. The Office of Planning was opposed to rezoning in order to accommodate Safeway's 2009 PUD, and ANC 3E03 suggested that Safeway consider a mixed-use development for the site.
The yellow and peach areas at 43rd St and Ellicott St. on the Office of Planning Land Use Map from 2005 (within article) are currently residential areas - with residents - and it is these folks who are particularly concerned about Safeway's redevelopment plans for the site as it is quite literally in their backyard.
Correction: In paragraph five, "Safeway-owned land" is incorrect, and the article should read "the affected area"
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