It looks like the former Safeway site on Stone Way North in Wallingford, currently a hole in the ground, finally is going to be developed as apartments and retail space.
The corner of North 39th Street and Stone Way North in Wallingford, where a Safeway once stood, has been a yawning cavity in the ground for the past two years — and a persistent irritation for a neighborhood long wanting something desirable to be built there.
Before the site became a hole, the old store had been boarded up for about six years.
Finally, after a history of false starts, it looks like the property is going to be developed to the neighborhood’s satisfaction.
Earlier this week, the city’s Department of Planning and Development issued a preliminary decision allowing Prescott Development of Kirkland to move forward on a five-story, 150-unit apartment building with underground parking and ground-floor retail space, possibly to be filled by a specialty grocery.
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If the final master-use permit is issued within two weeks as expected, excavation workers could converge upon the site before Christmas, with framing going up in the spring.
“The hole is a blight on the neighborhood and really needs to be filled,” said Janet Strong Stillman, executive director of Wallingford Neighborhood Office, an umbrella organization for the neighborhood’s community council and chamber of commerce.
Conversation about the fate of the site dates back 15 years, with the neighborhood keenly interested because of the location’s prominence as a gateway to Wallingford from the Aurora Bridge.
QFC bought the property in 1993, acting as landlord to Safeway while pursuing plans to tear down that store and build a QFC with condos on top. Safeway stayed open through 2001, at which point QFC boarded it up. Over time, graffiti taggers turned it into an even bigger eyesore.
Neighbor-initiated appeals of QFC’s development plans delayed the project, and QFC didn’t start demolishing the store until the end of 2006. But by the time the building was set to go up in spring 2007, costs had increased significantly and QFC opted to not proceed, said Kristin Maas, QFC spokeswoman.
Prescott, which was going to develop the condo portion of the development for QFC, agreed to buy the property from the grocer in July 2007, the sale hinging upon the city’s approvals.
Carl Pollard, Prescott’s owner, said the sale will be finalized with the issuance of the final master-use permit.
“The Wallingford design guidelines were very specific for this site,” Pollard said. “The neighborhood didn’t want a homogeneous building.”
What it will get, he said, is a single structure that blends five distinct sections and facades — a creative design that Pollard describes as a “bellwether building.”
Matt Lerner, who bought a house a block away in 2002, said Prescott made a lot of design changes at the request of neighbors.
“The building will make the neighborhood so much more walkable,” he said. “I have a 2-year-old, and I can’t wait to walk down there to get a cup of coffee or get some groceries.”
The building would go up at a time when the economy is paralyzing new development. Pollard said Prescott has secured solid financing for the project, in part, because Seattle’s apartment market remains stout — a result of people turning to rentals when they can’t secure loans to buy homes.
“The rental-vacancy rate continues to be very sustainable and rents are where they need to be for a project like this,” Pollard said. “I don’t think you could do this today as condominiums.”
Stuart Eskenazi: 206-464-2293 or firstname.lastname@example.org