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Safeway photo set update for you…

November 7, 2011, 11:17 PM

Remember my “Abandoned Grocery Store” photo set, where I took photos of the board-up on the Safeway store in Wheaton, Maryland? They’re finally tearing the building down. Let the record show that I did the photo set on December 27, 2009. The store had closed eight days prior to this. They’re just now getting around to demolishing the building – nearly two years later. Admittedly, it didn’t look quite as rough as it looked in my photo set the whole time. The board-up was painted gray by spring 2010, and then a “Coming soon your new SAFEWAY” banner was hung from the front of it for a year and a half. It looked like this:

The board-up on Safeway in Wheaton, seen here on January 25, 2011

Of course, that banner was none too reassuring, because the closed store was still there, and the new building replacing it couldn’t go up until this one was gone.

And now they’re doing it. I took these photos on Sunday morning, on my way out to visit my friend Matthew out in Reston. As you can see, demolition is underway…

View from the northwest of the front of the building. The red "SAFEWAY" letters were removed when the banner went up in mid 2010. The partial removal of the board-up was done when demolition began. The front of the store was almost entirely glass.
View from the northwest of the front of the building. The red “SAFEWAY” letters were removed when the banner went up in mid 2010. The partial removal of the board-up was done when demolition began. The front of the store was almost entirely glass. See this image from Google Street View showing the store when it was still open with its glass front.

Similar angle as before, but with the fence visible.
Similar angle as before, but with the fence visible.

Straight-on view of the front of the store, along Georgia Avenue.
Straight-on view of the front of the store, along Georgia Avenue.

The old "Safeway" sign. My understanding is that the signage that I photographed was not original, as the original signage would have had the Safeway "S" logo in the circle, and a different font for the Safeway name. In any case, the signage was dismantled in 2010, at approximately the same time as the removal of the red lettering on the building, as well as the "S" logos on the building.
The old “Safeway” sign. My understanding is that the signage that I photographed was not original, as the original signage would have had the Safeway “S” logo in the circle, and a different font for the Safeway name. In any case, the signage was dismantled in 2010, at approximately the same time as the removal of the red lettering on the building, as well as the “S” logos on the building.

The main entrance to the store. Note the very recent looking exit sign. The board-up is still fully intact on the wall with the entrance on it, and one of the doors is open. I shopped here a few times, but the location was very inconvenient for me, with my living north of the store as I do, which required doing too many turns to get into the parking lot from southbound Georgia Avenue. Thus I probably only went here about five or so times. Maybe the new Safeway store will have better access for drivers coming from the north.
The main entrance to the store. Note the very recent looking exit sign. The board-up is still fully intact on the wall with the entrance on it, and one of the doors is open. I shopped here a few times, but the location was very inconvenient for me, with my living north of the store as I do, which required doing too many turns to get into the parking lot from southbound Georgia Avenue. Thus I probably only went here about five or so times. Maybe the new Safeway store will have better access for drivers coming from the north.

Debris piled in front of the store. Note that besides the windows' having been removed, part of the concrete portion of the wall has already been demolished. I'm guessing that this was done to allow heavy equipment into the building to demolish the interior.
Debris piled in front of the store. Note that besides the windows’ having been removed, part of the concrete portion of the wall has already been demolished. I’m guessing that this was done to allow heavy equipment into the building to demolish the interior.

Broken glass on one of the front windows. Notice the "Welcome to SAFEWAY" lettering on the back wall of the store.
Broken glass on one of the front windows. Notice the “Welcome to SAFEWAY” lettering on the back wall of the store.

Lettering "ghosted" on the wall (it says "Seafood"), and some exposed wall studs where objects were removed. If I recall from my few visits there and the ghosted lettering, there was a cooler of some sort in this area. If not mistaken, the back wall of this store was mostly for refrigerated stuff.
Lettering “ghosted” on the wall (it says “Seafood”), and some exposed wall studs where objects were removed. If I recall from my few visits there and the ghosted lettering, there was a cooler of some sort in this area. If not mistaken, the back wall of this store was mostly for refrigerated stuff.

The parking garage under the Safeway in Wheaton
This was a strange feature on the building, and I don’t know the history of it (but would love to find out). It would appear that this was a two-level parking garage underneath the grocery store, but (A) you wouldn’t know it if you came in off of Georgia Avenue, and (B) it was closed to the public at least as long as I’ve lived here, even when the store was still open. I have no idea what this garage was used for when it was open, whether it was additional store parking, or whether it was a public garage unrelated to the store. There is a large county-operated parking structure nearby, and so it is plausible that this was the predecessor to the present county-operated garage, and that the county leased the space from Safeway. But I don’t know, sadly enough. I have only known it as being closed. When I shopped there, I never saw any way for customers to access the garage from the store, and considering that this store appeared to have never been remodeled (it was quite vintage inside there!), a way to access the garage, even if closed off, was not apparent. That lends a little credibility to the unrelated-to-the-store theory, but if anyone knows for sure, please do fill me in, because the presence of what appears to be a parking garage under the store puzzles me.

Of course, it also begs the question of what else would you put in that space if not a parking garage. That site slopes down about two stories. The southeast corner of the Safeway store, at the corner of Fern Street and Reedie Drive in Wheaton, is approximately two stories lower than the corner of Georgia Avenue and Reedie Drive a block west. So I suppose that they had to put something there to raise the store and parking lot up to street level relative to Georgia Avenue, and I suppose a parking garage was more useful than the alternative, which would be a big basement or something. I don’t know enough about 1960s Wheaton to be able to say anything about the feasibility of unrelated street-level retail on that side of the site, but the geography of the site seems to preclude it, and in any case, they didn’t go that route and now they’re tearing it down, so it’s kind of a moot point, isn’t it?

For that matter, I also don’t know if they’re planning any street-level retail in the new building aside from the new Safeway store.

Meanwhile, these demolition guys work quickly. I took these photos on Sunday, and no one was working on the site that day. I went by this evening (Monday) after a trip to Target, and in one workday, they had demolished most of the back wall of the store. You can now see the aforementioned county garage from Georgia Avenue, through the remains of the old Safeway. Kinda weird!

Considering that they demolished that much in a day, I would guess that the building will be gone very soon. If I were to guess, I’d say that it will probably be gone by the end of next week. Now how soon that new building goes up, I don’t know. In any case, I don’t know what I think about the new building, since at 14 stories, it will be the tallest building in Wheaton by a wide margin, dwarfing everything else around. You will likely be able to see it for quite some distance down Georgia Avenue. I guess I’ll form an opinion about it once the new store goes up.

Hopefully, though, this new building doesn’t start a trend that pushes the existing local, mostly Hispanic-owned, businesses out of Wheaton. They are, after all, what gives Wheaton its charm, and I would hate to see that disappear and be replaced by yet more chain stores. Trust me, there is already more than enough of those…

Web site: Redevelopment proposal as submitted to the Montgomery County government in April 2010

Song: Then in other news on the redevelopment front, the old Hecht's building at Wheaton Plaza (the mall) is also coming down right now. That's going to make way for a new Costco at the mall, and I still for the life of me can't figure out how a Costco is going to fit on the mall property and still provide room for the amount of parking that a Costco (as well as the rest of the mall) requires.

Quote: Meanwhile, I wish the media would stop referring to the new Safeway store planned for this development as being a "renovated" store. It's not a renovated store if you're completely demolishing the old structure and building a new one, even if it is on the same site. "Renovated" means you redid the store within the existing structure or at least kept some of the existing structure and reworked it. This is an outright demolition and rebuilding, and so the new store is more aptly described as a "replacement" store, and not a "renovated" store.

Categories: Safeway, Wheaton