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June 21, 2022

Safeway dropped from LMC's 759-unit plan near U Village

Real Estate Editor

Renderings by Encore Architects [enlarge]
Looking north across 45th, the large London plane tree would anchor the central entry courtyard.

In a surprising turn of events, Safeway will not return to the large mixed-use redevelopment project on land it owns at 3020 N.E. 45th St., just east of University Village. Corporate parent Albertsons bought full control of the roughly 4-acre property, also home to Burgermaster, over a year ago. The old store dates to 1975.

Developer LMC and Encore Architects filed their early apartment plan in February. It was then assumed, wrongly, that Safeway would return and occupy the bulk of the retail.

Instead, the new plan includes 24,744 square feet of retail/commercial space (less than the old store), broken up into seven distinct bays — not the one large expanse a grocer requires.

That plan has its first design review on July 25. Other key numbers include: three midrise buildings with 759 units; 24,612 square feet of tenant amenity space; 537 parking stalls for residents; 114 stalls for shoppers (651 in total, all structured); 52,642 square feet of exterior amenity space (terraces, courtyards, etc.) and a total project size well north of 900,000 square feet.

The new plan includes 24,744 square feet of retail/commercial space (less than the old store), broken up into seven distinct bays — not the one large expanse a grocer requires.

The site, bounded to the north by Union Bay Place Northeast, has a kind of squished triangular shape. All three buildings would have irregular shapes. The two south buildings, on 45th, would have eight stories. The north building would have nine.

The property is zoned up to 75 feet. Two exceptional trees would be preserved in Encore's preferred plan. If the city approves, that gains LMC the extra height and floor area. On 45th, where a central courtyard would be oriented toward Union Bay and Mt. Rainier, a London plane tree would become “the centerpiece of the development, and a new neighborhood landmark.” To the west, close to the QFC, an Austrian black pine would also be preserved.

Tree Solutions is the arborist, and prepared a report for LMC; Weisman Design Group is the landscape architect; and McCullough Hill Leary is providing legal services.

The two south buildings would rise about 80 feet above 45th. The land slopes up some 10 feet to Union Bay Place; there, the north building would rise about 75 feet above grade. That will present more like eight stories to passersby.

Two exceptional trees would be preserved in Encore's preferred plan.

Underground parking would be impossible, because that whole U Village area is essentially a bog — land created by the lowering of Lake Washington in 1916 via the Montlake Cut. So for the structured parking, there would be garage entries on both 45th and Union Bay Place, with the retail bays also facing those streets.

The apartments and courtyards would start on the third floor. Individual unit sizes aren't yet determined. Among the planned amenities are several bike rooms in the garage. On the second-floor terrace overlooking 45th and the entry courtyard, tenants would also have two pools.

Encore has indicated that the unnamed project will pursue BuiltGreen and/or LEED certification. That may also gain extra floor area via the city's Living Building Pilot Program.

On the development's west end — on 45th, closest to the QFC — the west building would be partly cantilevered above a secondary truck loading entry.

Neither 45th nor Union Bay Place has ever been pedestrian friendly. But Encore will try to create “nodes of activity” with the retail. Along Union Bay Place, “the building massing undulates” — in part because it has to wrap around the inset, separately owned Ravenna Animal Hospital.

The retail bays range from about 1,574 to 5,255 square feet. There's no mention of Safeway or the Burgermaster in Encore's early plan; but future tenants only figure in build-to-suit plans.

Could Burgermaster return? The Jensen family's business now has over 6,000 square feet in its 62-year-old building. It could conceivably return to a smaller space, but only after shuttering during two-plus years of construction. (Spud Fish & Chips, for example, did so at Green Lake.) LMC has been in contact with the family, according to Puget Sound Business Journal.

As for the privately held Albertsons/Safeway, well before the pandemic — which so radically reshaped all retail, including the grocery sector — it had been taking a cold, clinical scalpel to its real estate portfolio. Some old locations have been sold for total redevelopment, like the Greenwood Safeway. Still others have been sold with lease-back agreements.

Some store locations, like the Magnolia Albertsons, Queen Anne Safeway and University District Safeway, were deemed valuable enough to hold through years-long redevelopment with apartments or condos on top. But the grocer has to forego two years of lost revenue before returning to nice new stores. And some customers will inevitably shift loyalties during the interim.

It now seems inevitable that LMC will buy the land outright from Albertsons/Safeway, which last year paid a bit over $25 million to finish assembling the site. The grocer would thus cede that area to the QFC next door, at U Village. That affluent zip code near Laurelhurst and Windermere is also served by a nearby Metropolitan Market, PCC and — over in Roosevelt — Whole Foods. And that's not even to mention Amazon's home-delivery options, Instacart, etc.

In a sense, the U Village and U District Safeway locations were completing with each other, too. And the new U District Safeway looks to be opening around September; that's the targeted opening month for the 180 apartments now dubbed HERE, at 4732 Brooklyn Ave. N.E.


Brian Miller can be reached by email at brian.miller@djc.com or by phone at (206) 219-6517.

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