(Screengrab from Admiral Safeway construction webcam – click to go to the “live webcam” page)
This morning, the City Council’s Committee on the Built Environment unanimously approved two items giving permission for a change in the Admiral Safeway project – as first reported here in January, the building east of the new store itself will be almost entirely apartments, instead of part apartments, part flex-work office spaces – Safeway said the developer for that part of the project was unable to get financing for the office space, but could get financing for residential units. (They also at the time offered a packet of graphics and information comparing the original proposal with the changed one.)
City council staff told the committee members (chair Sally Clark, Sally Bagshaw, Tim Burgess) that they had received five written comments about the change – three in support, two voicing concerns such as increased traffic and effects on parking. The councilmembers were told at today’s hearing that the change to apartments actually should reduce the traffic/parking effects, since residential needs will not overlap with nearby retail needs the way flex-work units would have done. “So what’s the down side” of the change? asked Councilmember Bagshaw. Council staffer Michael Jenkins noted that community members had considered the flex-work units “desirable” (here’s our original report when the idea first came up), though he also went on to say that this change might be viewed positively by residents across 42nd SW, who now will face apartments instead of offices.
One other point of contention was acknowledged by Councilmember Clark – that while this was described as a “minor amendment” to the development agreement the Council previously had approved (their involvement was related to aspects including “contract rezoning” for part of the site as well as “vacation” of public right-of-way, an “alley” that went through the site), at least one member of the public objected to that (she specifically named longtime neighborhood advocate Dennis Ross, who attended the hearing but did not speak – no one came to the mike during today’s “public comment” time at the meeting’s start). The matter of whether the change was “minor” or not was not up before the committee for deciding, she observed, and they approved the two-part change (see the fine print in links on the agenda) unanimously. (We’ll update when the date for full-council consideration is set.) To a reported public comment expressing concern that Safeway hadn’t revealed the change sooner, Clark opined that indeed, they always prefer to see developers communicate with the community sooner rather than later. Construction on the project proceeds at a relatively fast pace, with the new Safeway scheduled to open this summer.