CM Thomas’ Reaction to Safeway Closing

With the sudden announcement that the Safeway will be closing on March 6th, CM Thomas gives us his reaction.

Dear Ward 5 Residents,

Safeway did not inform me in advance of the community regarding its decision to close its store in Edgewood; I received a phone call about the planned closure at the same time residents were informed.

Once I found out about the planned closure, I sought input from the Edgewood Civic Association at its monthly meeting. I also sought input from the Ward 5 community leaders who attended my January 30th leadership roundtable. Right now, I am organizing an outreach effort about which I will update the Ward 5 community later this week.

Furthermore, I am angered by the decision and am committed to working with residents to fight to keep Safeway in the Edgewood community–with necessary store upgrades that we deserve. To date, my staff and I have been in contact with Vanguard Realty, the leasing agent for the shopping center, to discuss incentives to get Safeway to stay. I am also reviewing legislative remedies, such as creating additional tax abatements as well as revoking Safeway’s property tax abatements for future stores it plans to open in the city if maintains its resolve to turn its back on the Edgewood community.

Please know that I remain steadfast in my support of the Edgewood community and bringing positive change, and building on the improvements we have made thus far: renovation of the Edgewood Recreation Center, creation of the Rhode Island Avenue Green Team, expansion of the Great Streets initiative to include Rhode Island Avenue, and bringing new businesses to the corridor like Forman Mills.

In Service I Remain,

Harry “Tommy” Thomas, Jr.

Ward 5 Councilmember

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9 thoughts on “CM Thomas’ Reaction to Safeway Closing

  1. Ahh, yes. Because nothing encourages a thriving local business community like threats and legislative coercion. I’m sure that all sorts of new businesses will be delighted to open up shop here knowing that if things go sour, they will be strong-armed into staying anyway. Thanks for the support, Mr. Thomas!

    Sorry about the sarcasm, but it drives me nuts to see our elected leaders make it far less likely for economic improvements to come to our neighborhoods. Let’s try less punitive measures to prop open failing stores (which will never see the “necessary store upgrades that we deserve” as long as the store loses money), and try fixing some of the root causes.

  2. I’m with Charles. Councilmember Thomas’ letter – while well intended – packs plenty of populist hubris but doesn’t show a lot of political savvy. As if the Safeway corporate folks in Pleasanton, CA are concerned about the Councilmember’s outrage.

    Here’s an idea: how about instead of offering Safeway more tax breaks to keep their second-rate store open (which strikes me as an incredibly ill-conceived suggestion), we take those resources and recruit a better tenant? Wegman’s would have my vote: they pay their employees better and give back to the communities they do business in. Equally important, they’d be more economically competitive than Safeway…while Safeway carries virtually the exact same products as the much larger and nicer Giant a few blocks away, Wegman’s carries the same products plus a whole array of organic and natural foods products, both of which are in short supply in our community.

  3. Thanks for posting this; I am doubtful that the approach outlined in the Councilmember’s letter will, in the long run, yield the best results for the community.

    I sent the following the CM Thomas (I’ll provide his response as well):

    Dear Councilmember Thomas,

    I have read your letter to the community as reported by the blog Rhode Island Ave NE Insider (https://rhodeislandavene.com/), and while I appreciate your rapid response to the news of the store closing, I have some concerns.

    As it stands, the amenities offered along Rhode Island Ave NE are in desperate need of upgrade–I know that you and I agree on this as you touch on it in your letter. While your letter very powerfully described means of hurting Safeway if it closes the Edgewood store, I would like to hear how you will entice the company to improve the venue. Mind you this store was ordered closed by DC DOH for rodent infestation last month. To be sure, an upgrade from the status quo is crucial for growth in our community.

    Additionally, I am concerned that the retaliatory measures you described will have a chilling effect on the movement of other companies to RI Ave NE. We certainly do not want to scare companies out of our neighborhoods by creating a perception of a capricious, reckless, arbitrary legislative environment.

    I look forward to your thoughts on these matters.

    Sincerely yours,

  4. This effort by the Edgewood Community to rally for Safeway or any other decent food store has my complete support. Safeway carries it’s own line of Organic Foods. One Safeway flyer listed over 100 Organic items. This RI Avenue Safeway carried some of them at one time. Although, I’m not a frequent Safeway shopper, I, too have noticed the decline is quality of products and services at this store. If this rally draws attention to the needs and concerns of this area, I hope that it can attract a decent food store to the east end of Rhode Island between Monroe and Eastern Avenue which is strewn with vacant used car lots. Both Yes! Foods on 12th and Glut on 34th have many Organic items, but it would be nice to see another grocery store between these two area. Shoppers Food store is slated to open at Fort Lincoln with the Costco. So, we’ll have enough big box stores.

  5. Incentives? Tax abatements? For a store that was recently shut down by the Health Department due to vernin infestion? (http://dcist.com/2010/01/rhode_island_ave_safeway_closed_for.php).

    The property management may be at fault for this or the store but to engage in a discussion with either company for the purpose of offering incentives seems naive.

    Having moved here in the Fall, I drove to this strip mall, took one look and made a hasty retreat to the Giant and to Yes on 12th St. The Giant and Safeway malls are a few blocks apart but there is a vast difference in the two malls with respect to cleanliness and a sense of security.

    I heard that closing Safeway will affect a portion of the older residents who live near the mall but I would rather have incentives spent directly on helping these residents.

  6. I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but the entire reason that the store is closing, and the reason a Foreman Mills store opened there, is because of the demography of the area at large. Wegmans, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, etc. are not going to EVER move into this area until some developer decides that it is worth investing in the entire area as a whole. Look at New York Ave. Metro. It is now getting a Harris Teeter because developers built residential and office buildings around it. Unfortunately, we are just going to have to wait until after all of these RIA Great Streets meetings are over, and development actually begins, to see much change in the quality of the stores in that area. The good news is that it’s still in the planning stages, so we all have a chance to weigh in with what we expect out of development for the area as a whole. We need to push city planners so increase luxury mixed use development around the metro station (ala, CityVista on NYA).

  7. If that’s true, why did the Papa John’s move into the Brentwood Plaza area near 14th and Rhode Island? Of all the stores on RIA, Papa John’s represents the most significant foreshadowing of things to come. I’m not much of a pizza eater. On 12th Street, San Antonio’s Bar and Grill which offers Tex-Mex food has recently changed it’s offerings to include Italian food to cater to the long-standing demographics. When I’ve gone to Wegman’s, it’s such a “Wow!” experience, except when I get to the check out line which feels more like I’m in Walmart. The significant thing about No-Ma (aka NY Ave) is the ATF coming which brought a lot of “rich” workers and buyers to the area. Similarly for the Verizon Center and China Town. RIA needs a similar “rich uncle” who employs a great number of people and provides good salaries and spending potential. Developers with luxury homes and the Arts aren’t enough. They really aren’t the solution at all. Look at the Arts Corridor along Rt. 1. It’s still a ghost town even though they’ve gotten trememdous government funding, luxury homes (EYA) and some pubescent arts. What RIA needs is good paying employers and upscale transportation like the Street Car.

    1. I think everyone has made good points. To retailers, neighborhoods and areas are numbers on a page. They consider demographic information to decide whether or not a store is feasible for a location. That is the first step. I have a lot of experience in locating retailers in areas and I can tell you that the RIA corridor will not entice a Wegmans. For one, they are not building smaller…there average new build is at least 140,000 sqft. The Costco, Shoppers, and possibly Target at Ft. Lincoln is a great win for this area (one being that is far enough away to not impact us with traffic, etc, but close enough to bring vibrancy back to this area of town). Most retailers are not brave enough to venture to a new area or a depressed area (which I consider RIA to be…economically speaking — evidenced in the empty store fronts, etc). They need an anchor. Woodie is right that the ATF building helped No-Ma tremendously, but it isn’t the only thing needed. I do agree with MisterWeederson that a Forman Mills will not attract other better known retailers either to that specific shopping center. In my honest opinion, the entire shopping center should be redeveloped to take advantage of its prime location next to the metro to include street level retail and residential/office above. I have lived here for some time now, and I must say, that the shopping center has not attracted me yet. It isn’t appealing as is.

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