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REDEVELOPING THE SAFEWAY BLOCK

Original document prepared by:

Brett Estes, Community Development Director

Rosemary Johnson, Planner



John Goodenberger, Consultant


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

There have been numerous events, studies, and reports concerning the downtown property which was the site of the former Safeway grocery store. As the current property owner,

the City is responsible for the maintenance and future redevelopment of the site.

How that redevelopment would occur is the subject of many of these studies.

The Community Development Department has condensed the volumes of information concerning this site as a consolidated reference for City Council and the community

on what has been studied and why.


Recently, there has been renewed discussion regarding the status of the Safeway Block. This issue is included as a Council Goal and community groups have expressed interest for improvements to this central Downtown plaza site, especially in light of the upcoming Astoria Bicentennial. This document has been prepared to aid discussion on the future of this key downtown property. A synopsis of the planning studies completed for this site is provided in

this executive summary. More detailed information can be found in the accompanying report.


1990 to 2000

From 1990 to 2000, the City was in frequent contact with the representatives of Safeway concerning the need for a new Safeway store. It was the desire of the City that Safeway maintain a Downtown location. Safeway participated in development of the Gateway Master Plan, as they had concerns about potential land use provisions which would affect their ability to construct a new store. No new Safeway locations were proposed in that Plan.


1998 ODOT Transportation Growth Management Quick Response Program

The Transportation Growth Management Division (TGM) of the Department of Land Conservation and Development, through its Quick Response Program, assisted the City with a study for the relocation / redevelopment of Safeway. That study was completed by Crandall Arambula. Four sites were evaluated including 1) John Warren Field; 2) Gateway Area; 3) Existing Site; 4) Another Downtown Site. Eventually a plan was prepared for the Downtown location which was presented to the public for comment during the TGM process. Ultimately, Safeway determined that they did not wish to remain Downtown and needed to pursue other locations.


2000, Clatsop Community College Urban Campus Plan

At the same time Safeway was reviewing options for a new store location, Clatsop Community College was discussing either upgrading their existing facility or building a new campus. Ultimately, the College identified three potential sites for a new facility: 1) Downtown Astoria, 2) Airport Hill on Alternate Highway 101, and 3) North Coast Business Park on Highway 101. An ODOT / DLCD Transportation Growth Management Quick Response Program grant was obtained to study the Downtown Astoria Option. Three alternatives were studied by Crandall Arambula, two of which were on the downtown Safeway site. The favored option included the entire Safeway block being redeveloped, featuring a single, multi-story building with a campus green. Other underutilized buildings in the area were also proposed to be used by the College.


2001, Safeway / Community College Relocation Options

In January, 2001, the Governor’s Community Solutions Team awarded a Community Response Fund Grant of $33,000 for continued study of a new Safeway location to allow development of a possible downtown College campus. Crandall Arambula was hired to further analyze the Safeway relocation options. A downtown College campus was favored by consultants and had some public support. As this concept was being refined, Crandall Arambula evaluated two sites to relocate Safeway. The first site was John Warren Field, which was previously considered as a potential site for CCC. The second site was just east of the Gateway Area at the site of the Hauke Sentry Market in the 3300 block of Lief Erikson Drive, the eventual Safeway location. No recommendations or conclusions were developed as this study was analyzing pros and cons of the two sites.



2002 / 2003, Safeway Relocation/Downtown Site Acquisition

In 2002, there is decreasing support by the public for the College urban campus and the CCC Board was split on the concept. Following discussions throughout the community, the College withdrew interest in the Safeway block and decided to abandon the urban campus concept. The City utilized a $750,000 Community Development Incentive Fund Program grant (initially intended for the College urban campus) and purchased the site from Safeway to help revitalize this part of downtown. In light of the fact that the College was no longer pursuing an urban campus concept, other Safeway property redevelopment alternatives were considered through a planning process conducted by Crandall Arambula. The consultants essentially revised their urban campus plan and replaced a College building with a mixed-use structure on the southeast corner of the block. The structure was proposed to be two to four stories. Under the terms of sale with Safeway, a maximum of 5,000 square feet could be retail food and /or restaurant use. Second floor uses could be used as office space and the upper floors could be developed as affordable or ownership housing.


2004, Safeway Design and Redevelopment, Moore Iacofano Goltsman, Inc. (MIG)

The Community Development Incentive Fund grant used to purchase the Safeway block was conditioned upon public use of the site. With the results of the previous studies and the potential use of the site for private development, the State required that the grant be converted to a grant/loan and a more specific plan for the site was required. In 2004, MIG was hired and presented three alternative development scenarios to Astoria citizens at two public meetings for discussion. These alternatives included: A) Clatsop Community College; B) Public use; C) Mixed public/private use. Alternatives B and C were explored with and without relocating the American Legion building. The strongest support from the public meetings was for Alternative B: Public Uses. In December 2004 a report was presented to City Council where the three Alternatives were given. The consultant recommended that the Safeway store be demolished and a temporary multi-use parking lot / plaza be developed. Council ultimately decided to recommend Option B which includes a public plaza, a possible new library, public meeting rooms and parking.


2005 - 2009, Safeway Site Loan / Grant and Reuse

Following Council’s direction at the December 20, 2004 meeting, staff forwarded the proposal to the State in order to renegotiate the terms for the grant used to purchase the Safeway site. Ultimately, a grant of $266,925 with a 15 year loan of $483,075 was negotiated. In June 2005, the City had the Safeway building demolished, retaining the concrete flooring as a central plaza area. The City decided to utilize the two existing parking areas on either side of the plaza as ongrade, interim parking until the site is redeveloped with a more beneficial use.


INTRODUCTION

Safeway was an integral downtown anchor from the time it was constructed in 1957 until it relocated to the present location east of downtown. In 1979, representatives of Safeway announced they were looking for alternate locations to develop a larger, more modern store. City staff, in conjunction with a variety of State agencies, worked to avoid the Safeway building becoming vacant. Periodic verbal discussions between Safeway representatives and City staff continued for the next decade. There is a provision in the Comprehensive Plan Community Growth - Plan Strategy which states: “The downtown area will be protected as the commercial center of the region through policies discouraging strip commercial development, encouraging the establishment of additional parking areas, and promoting the concepts of limited malls and “People Places.” The City continues to support a strong and vibrant Downtown.


1990 to 2000

From 1990 to 2000, the City was in more frequent contact with the representatives of Safeway concerning the need for a new Safeway store and the desire of the City that Safeway maintain a Downtown location due to its contribution to the commercial vitality of Downtown and the provision of needed service for residents living close by. With construction of a new store in Seaside, Safeway had vacated a downtown store in that community and the resulting vacant building remained a blight for many years. This prospect as a significant concern to Astoria.

During this period, the City was in the process of acquiring the former Fairgrounds site located in the 1800 block Marine Drive (the current location of the Gateway Cinema, Aquatic Center, and OSU Seafood Consumer Center). In addition, the City was working with Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on the environmental clean up of the former Astoria Plywood Mill site. These two projects spurred the development and adoption of the Gateway Master Plan for the area from 16th to 29th Streets and the River to Exchange Street. The Plan was adopted on May 4, 1998. While not directly related to the Safeway relocation, these projects impacted the work being done with Safeway and their eventual decisions.

Safeway opposed the adoption of the Gateway Plan as they believed that the potential new store sites within this area would be easier to develop without the need for design review as required in the Gateway Plan. The Plan did not directly address the potential Safeway relocation, but the vision for the Gateway Area limited the possible locations available.


1998 ODOT Transportation Growth Management Quick Response Program

The Safeway Corporation requested, through the City, that the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) provide a consultant team to help determine an appropriate design and site for a new grocery store in Astoria. The Transportation Growth Management Division (TGM) of the DLCD, through its Quick Response Program, selected Crandall Arambula, PC to work with the interested parties to select a site and develop a design for a store. Grocery store designs were developed and evaluated for four potential sites: 1) John Warren Field; 2) Gateway Area; 3) Existing Site; 4) Another Downtown Site.


1) John Warren Field: John Warren Field is used as the School District football field. Although the analysis of the site showed it would work well for the store, the loss of the athletic field and site ownership were large detriments. During the review of this option, it was discovered that ownership of the property would revert from School District ownership to the City of Astoria should the property not be used as an athletic field.

2) Gateway: Site access was the largest problem with this site as turning activity on and off Marine Drive was discouraged by ODOT. Site ownership and land assembly were also problems. The City had acquired the Fairgrounds property in 1993, but the proposed Gateway location included other privately owned properties.

3) Existing Site: The site was thought to be the best choice for the Downtown if parking could be found, ownership obtained, and traffic circulation problems worked out. Circulation issues were significant. Resolution included converting Duane Street to two-way traffic and vacating Exchange and 12th Streets adjacent to the site. Access to the store from Marine Drive and Commercial Street was also considered a liability.

4) Another Downtown Site: Proposed on the NW corner of 10th Street & Marine Drive, there were considerable obstacles to overcome including street vacation and land assembly. While the site was good for westbound access, it was virtually inaccessible for east-bound motorists. The site was thought to be better suitable for lodging or commercial use that would benefit from the waterfront location.

A portion of this area was a sunken parking lot and fish processing office which was scheduled to close, a bowling alley with sunken parking lot, and a historic office/restaurant building. Safeway eventually prepared a plan for the Downtown location which was presented to the public for comment during the TGM p