On Wednesday, June 27, local dignitaries presided over the ground-breaking at the new ‘Beckert’s Park’ development on the site of the 14th Street SE Safeway.
Real estate development firm Foulger-Pratt is building ‘Beckert’s Park,’ a 402,012 square foot mixed-use building. It will include a 60,000 square foot Safeway store, 325 units of housing in five stories and 8,000 square feet of additional retail including a Starbucks above below-grade parking. The marquee entrance will be placed at the corner of 14th & D Streets SE. The project is expected to be completed by 2020.
Dignitaries including Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6-D), DC Department of Housing and Community Development (DCHD) Director Polly Donaldson, Foulger-Pratt CEO Cameron Pratt and Jim Perkins, the Eastern Division President of Albertson’s, Safeway’s parent company, donned hardhats and picked up shiny shovels for a ceremonial dirt-tossing shortly after comments were delivered.
State of the Art Grocery Store
Safeway Division President Perkins said Safeway operates 15 stores in DC, two times as many as the closest competitor, and has been in business in the District for 75 years. “We love being here and we love doing business here,“ he said.
Perkins said there had been a Safeway in the area since 1955, and that the current 14th Street structure was built in 1980.
The new 60,000 square feet store will be 10,000 square feet larger than the current space and will constitute “a state of the art grocery store,” said Perkins, “with all the bells and whistles,” including a Starbucks and a ‘drive up and go’ grocery pick-up.
He said the store would employ 180 employees. Many would be staff returning to the location, but he said additional hires are necessary because of an expected increase in business due to growth in the neighborhood.
Many speakers noted their personal relationships with the 14th Street Safeway, including Angelique Brunner, Founder and President of EB5 Capital, which helped find investors for the project.
Brunner said she came to DC in 1999 and bought her first house on Pennsylvania Avenue. The 14th Street Safeway was her regular grocery store – “until you did this to it,” she joked, motioning to the shuttered building, closed since March 10th.
In his remarks, Councilmember Allen also noted his own relationship with the store, saying that when he moved to the Hill in 2005, the 14th Street Safeway “was our Safeway.“
“So I feel like I know it really well,” he said.
Allen said that Ward 6 has some of the fastest housing growth in the District, and that more affordable homes are being added in Ward 6 than in any other part of the District because of projects like Beckert’s Park.
Allen praised the affordable housing element contained in the developing, noting that 45 of the 300 units will be affordable, intended for families with incomes “in the $50-60,000 range.”
In her remarks, DHCD Director Polly Donaldson noted that this amount of affordable housing was well above the 8-10 % proportion required by the District Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) Program, “and shows the good faith of the development partners.”
Acknowledging the challenges of construction, Allen also said that the development team had done a good job of partnering with the neighbors and the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) to provide leadership and that he trusted this would continue moving forward. Allen said he had received a phone call just that morning about the logistics of vehicle entry and staging at the site.
Committed to the Community
Representatives from Foulger-Pratt emphasized the neighborhood and community in remarks. Foulger-Pratt CEO Cameron Pratt said that Safeway had five sites they wanted to develop. “But there was one that really stood out,” he said, “and it was this site. So we really pursued it.”
Noting that Safeway would own the store and that Foulger-Pratt would own the apartment above, Pratt said “Foulger-Pratt wanted to build this and own it forever because we are committed to being a member of this community.”
Foulger-Pratt Development Director Feras Qumseya said retail choices for the building would reflect both the history and current needs of the community.
“If you look at the site there was a very prominent creamery located here,” he said, demonstrating knowledge of the history of the area. After prohibition forced the closure of The National Capital Brewery in 1917, Carry’s Ice Cream operated on the site until it was purchased by Safeway in the 1960s. “So, we’d like to have an ice cream shop and a restaurant.”
Referencing Barracks Row, he said the vision was for both destination retail and a neighborhood-serving experience. Pointing to the wide, landscaped sidewalks in the design, intended for sidewalk cafes and lounging under trees, he said the plan called for the site to become a truly ‘Social Safeway.’
“This is a place where the community can gather, a cool place for people to hang out. We want this to be a very special place.”
‘A Lot of Changes’
Residents attending the ground breaking expressed both sadness at the loss of the store and excitement for the new development.
“We’re very sad,” said Potomac Gardens resident Liz Dean, “both at the loss of memories and the loss of the grocery store.” She said that the store didn’t give them warning of the closure. “We’ll have to get used to a new one,” she said. “They have everything we needed, and we knew where everything was.”
Helen Claytor also lives in Potomac Gardens. She said that the groundbreaking was a big moment for her. She worked at the store when she was 17, now nearly fifty years ago.
“There’s been a lot of changes,” she said.
Julia S. agreed. “It’ll be nice for the neighborhood,” she said. “The only thing about it is we won’t be able to afford it – we should be able to live there. Other than that it will be nice.”
Demolition in July
Demolition on the building will take three to four months and will begin in July. After the site is cleared, construction is expected to begin in October.
Foulger-Pratt Development Associate Kofi Meroe is the contact for the project.
Meroe says information about the development will be available on coUrbanize.com, an online home for real estate development and planning projects. Foulger-Pratt will post updates and host online conversations about the plans for community members. “The Beckert’s Park development will have its own page, and we’ll be uploading information in real time,” he said, “for instance about any possible temporary lane closures, or similar. That’s the best place to start,“ he said.
You can view the Beckert’s Park page on coUrbanize for real-time updates and to make suggestions, ask questions and expressed concerns in the comment section of the project page. The project team can then post a response.
You can also contact Meroe directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
An earlier version of this article misspelled the first name of Foulger-Pratt Development Director Feras Qumseya. It is Feras, not Fera. We regret the error.