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U-District Safeway may temporarily close in coming months

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The U-District Safeway is closing to make way for new development.

Whether you just pop by for a game day booze run or are a regular for groceries, if you live around the U-District you may have to switch around your grocery routine. The Safeway on the corner of Brooklyn Avenue and 50th Street Northeast may temporarily be closed and expanded as part of a plan for a new seven-story apartment building.

According to the project plans, both the existing Safeway building and adjacent parking lots may be demolished and replaced with 186 units, ground-level retail space, and 172 stalls of below-ground parking. The records also suggest that the retail space will be filled by a new, expanded Safeway.

Management at the existing Safeway, nicknamed fondly by many UW students as “Sketchway,” declined to comment on the future of the location as confirmation of the plans had not yet come to the store’s attention.

According to Joe Tovar, a former consultant and current city planning practitioner for Tovar Planning, this kind of renovation is typical for neighborhoods anticipating growth, like the U-District.

“It’s typical for an area in transition … the city has re-zoned it so it can facilitate quite a bit of growth,” Tovar said. “That land is much more valuable to the owner if it has a mixed use.” 

He added that developers in the U-District will likely continue sprouting residential buildings to meet the demand generated by the construction of a new light rail station in Northgate. 

“The market is responding to the investments that the public has made,” Tovar added. 

According to building plans, the units will house about 540 people and the building will sprawl across over half the block, covering the area of both of the current Safeway parking lots. Builders anticipate short-term construction noise on Mondays through Saturdays until the building is complete.

According to building plans, the entity that is financially responsible for the new building is called Campus UW JV II, LLC. Andrew Fenzl, accounting manager of the real estate Department of UW Facilities, said that he did not believe the project was affiliated with the UW and noted that it is not uncommon for unaffiliated landlords in the U-District area to posture as if they were part of the university. If Campus UW JV II, LLC was affiliated with the university, that would legally have to be recorded in their tax code. 

Plans have been in the works since December 2018 but have not yet been finalized. The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection is currently accepting public comment at PRC@seattle.gov.

Students and other U-District residents have grocery alternatives if a closure were to happen, like the Trader Joe’s two blocks west on Roosevelt Avenue and 47th Avenue Northeast or the Target located on the Ave. In the meantime, Safeway is operating under its normal hours, open every day from 6 a.m. until 2 a.m.

Reach reporter Emma Scher at news@dailyuw.com Twitter: @emma_scherr. 

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