The developer of a proposed Grocery Outlet in Astoria hopes a shared driveway with the Mini Mart on Marine Drive will help clear the way for a new store.
The Design Review Commission in October denied a proposal by Texas-based Main & Main Capital Group to build a 16,000-square-foot building for the national discount grocer on a triangular lot where Commercial Street runs into Marine Drive. Central to their concerns was access off of Marine Drive and the potential challenges it could pose for pedestrians.
Main & Main appealed the denial, arguing the commission did not reasonably explain under what conditions the project could be approved. The developer asked for and received approval from the City Council for a fresh public hearing that begins Tuesday.
Main & Main began work last fall on a new 18,000-square-foot Grocery Outlet in Seaside after resolving concerns about a turn lane off busy U.S. Highway 101.
In Astoria, access off Marine Drive, a state highway, has remained a contentious issue, with a perception of danger for pedestrians along the roadway and drivers entering and leaving through the bustling main artery. Main & Main’s revised application utilizes a shared driveway at the west end of the Mini Mart.
Dan Dover, a manager with Main & Main, said traffic engineers haven’t raised any issues with access off of Marine Drive. City public works has not taken issue with access off of the highway, but deferred judgment to the state.
“We’ve given up our access on Marine Drive and have gone that extra effort to share access with the neighbor,” Dover said of the Mini Mart. “If you don’t have access off of Marine Drive, you’re going to force more traffic down 23rd (Street) and more down Commercial (Street) … you’re going to make it worse if you don’t relieve some of the congestion by allowing direct access off of Marine.”
Commissioners also took issue with pedestrians on Marine Drive and from the store’s parking lot having to cross a driveway on striped paths to reach the entrance, similar to access at Safeway. Main & Main’s revised application still includes a pedestrian path through the parking lot. But the path connects with Marine Drive farther away from the shared driveway than in the previous layout.
The city has still expressed concern with the close proximity of the pedestrian walkway to vehicle access.
To appease design standards, Main & Main added windows on the south side of the store and lowered the height of a roadside sign to make it more oriented toward pedestrians than cars.
“We’ve provided a good design, and Grocery Outlet wants to provide value and choice for Astorians … I believe competition is a good thing and will only help Astorians,” Dover said.
The City Council could approve or deny Main & Main’s revised application, or send it back to the Design Review Commission. If denied again, the developers could appeal to the state Land Use Board of Appeals. Asked about further appeals, Dover said he doesn’t foresee the process going that far.
“I think we can work with the city until we reach their design standards,” he said. “We just need some direction from them.”