After years of finagling, Safeway ready to roll

It has taken more than a dozen years, but Safeway is finally ready to knock down its aging grocery store in Burlingame and build a bigger one.

Last week, Safeway pulled the final permit it needs to demolish the decades-old 30,248-square-foot market at Howard Avenue and El Camino Real, which is scheduled to close Sept. 18, and build a 51,835-square-foot store and a mixed-use development.

The company expects construction to last a year.

Some Burlingame residents may have wondered whether the Safeway project would ever go through after the community opposed initial replacement plans in the late 1990s and a revised project was voted down by the City Council in 2004.

The turning point was the Safeway Working Group, a community advisory body that formed in 2007 and helped guide the design of the new project. Addressing community concerns about delivery routes, building size and how the project fits with nearby downtown, the company’s latest version won City Council approval earlier this year.

“All of the stakeholder groups by the end were willing to agree this was a good solution and support it,” said Charles Voltz, co-chairman of Citizens for a Better Burlingame and who served on the Safeway Working Group. “It was a win-win for everybody.”

The project includes tearing down the old Walgreens store in the same shopping center and adding a two-story mixed-use building with a public roof garden. And, a former Wells Fargo building on the site will be renovated.

Safeway plans to begin demolition on the site in mid-October, Burlingame Planning Manager Maureen Brooks said. The company then hopes to finish the mixed-use building by April and the grocery store by August, Safeway spokeswoman Susan Houghton said.

In the meantime, residents should expect typical construction sights and sounds in the area, Brooks said. On a few days, construction may begin before the typical start time of 7 a.m. so walls can be put up near public parking lots.

“Construction is always a challenge, especially when you’re in the middle of the town, but I think they thought it through so [the impacts] should be as minimal as possible,” Brooks said.

Employees at the Burlingame Safeway will be reassigned to other stores throughout the Bay Area during construction, Houghton said.

The new store will have a 45,600-square-foot ground-floor level, a 6,100-square-foot mezzanine and a rooftop parking lot.

Vice Mayor Terry Nagel praised the project that resulted from the community process.

“It really flows better with downtown and promotes pedestrian-friendly access, so we think it’s a better plan than before,” Nagel said.

 

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