Rejuvenation of the Safeway block will boost all of downtown AstoriaAbandoned grocery stores are eyesores. They also become dead zones in the heart of communities. Many of us remember that the old Seaside Safeway sat empty for many years.
One of the smartest things Astoria city leaders did was to purchase the old Safeway site and assure the store's future demolition. The Astoria City Council reaffirmed that decision Monday. City Manager Dan Bartlett said the store would come down by the end of the year.
The visioning process that began some three years ago was well attended, and it produced a considerable amount of public comment. The broad consensus emerging from those sessions was for a combination of mixed-use development with public open space on the Safeway block.
There is a reflex reaction in every city and town to suggest that a vacant block ought to be put into parking. If the city of Astoria were to do that, a majority of the money it has received from the state for the block's purchase would become a loan, rather than a grant. The state's Community Incentive Fund promotes mixed-use developments, not parking lots.
Astoria has many downtown buildings that are candidates for adaptive reuse. The most prominent are the newly refurbished Hotel Elliott, which has become a widely renowned boutique hotel, and the Liberty Theater, which is becoming a contemporary performing arts center within the confines of a historic motion picture-vaudeville palace. Grocery stores that are decades old do not contain such potential. They are out-moded commercial spaces.
As with so many other recent developments in Astoria, the Safeway block gives the community an opportunity to take a great leap into the future. This is a pivotal block, and its rejuvenation will boost all of downtown.