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Nice post, Brian, about this completely out of scale, faux -urban grocery store. Your comment that you will probably still end up shopping there, is probably exactly what the folks at Safeway recognize. In that respect they're just thumbing their noses at the neighborhood and the city.

Ken Waineo

I think this Safeway has significant issues.

The old store was mostly known for poor service in the neighborhood. Then during construction, they did most everything that they could to upset the neighborhood, was unwilling to complete a good neighbor agreement, and then created a monstrosity of a building at the end of the process.

The whole thing was completely tone-deaf and that should be an incredibly dangerous thing to do in the Hawthorne district.

I've never had a great opinion of Safeway, but everything they have done during this process has significantly deteriorated that general opinion. This should cause Safeway significant anxiety as both Fred Meyer and New Seasons have far better shopping experiences, better community relations and (for Fred Meyer) generally better prices. It's just too easy for shoppers like me to avoid Safeway completely and Safeway has given me every excuse to do so.

Alexander Stange

It's Benner Stange, not Benner Strange. I'm glad to see you giving the benefit of the doubt to our local architecture firms.


Well, I've been on a one-person boycott of the Hawthorne Safeway for some time now due to extremely poor service and a dismal selection at the old store, plus the fact that corporate for the Portland region sent out anti-Employee Free Choice Act propaganda letters to the HOME ADDRESSES of workers at non-union stores. (I will say that a number of the veteran checkers at the old store are great, the poor service I got was a step or two up the food chain when I had some needs at the customer service "desk." I do really wonder if the suits managed to finally bust the union out of that store now that it's been rebuilt.)

ANYWAY. Yes. I have no reason or desire to go back in there with Fred Meyer just up the street for my corporate clonestore needs. I read without surprise about the refusal to sign the good-neighbor agreement; I also suspect Portland would have wanted to work with Safeway on a zoning variance to allow a mixed-use upper story, given the stated goals of Portland's zoning regulations (and yes I have researched it, my dream is to own a little corner grocery in the neighborhood someday). I'm also disappointed, but unsurprised, that they built a monolithic clone of their suburban stores smack in the middle of this otherwise very charming neighborhood. It's nice the parking is hidden, but the building looks like hell. There's this blank for two blocks on Hawthorne now. I think with some creativity and by working with the city they could have gotten the square footage they wanted and the yuppie makeover they wanted in a much more attractive package with much happier neighbors in what is, after all, a picket-happy neighborhood.

PS, I will walk in the "out" door until the end of time at Freddy's, or until they get their crap together and give up on whatever ridiculous plan they have to make me impulse-buy grapefruits by walking way the hell around when I'm going in for the pharmacy.


I feel your pain Brian. I imagine that the reason that the downtown stores are as nice as they are is due to design review guidelines. The Pearl district store is not too bad either.
It is all about control with these big corporate deals and the management thinks they know what good design is.
Safeway is no alone by any means. Just look around and you will see many corporate stores that all look like suburban tumors in our urban landscape.
As architects, we need to work harder to motivate these companies to strive to make better buildings. Not any easy task.


It is nice of you not to indict the design firms here, but I think you let them off too easy. Is it possible they did everything they could? Sure. It is also possible that they took a project that gave them no fee to do anything with. By agreeing to such terms they knew they were just going to throw some corporate schlock up there and that is not being a good neighbor and they should be held accountable for that.

I used to work for a firm that did these kinds of projects. There is never any fee for design, but I will say it was my experience that the retail tenant was far more interested in square footage and layout then the aesthetics and if we could prove improvements wouldn't cost more they would go for it. Our local design firms could have done better.


I live a block from this Safeway and suffered through the construction for the past year. Now that the Safeway Lifestyle remodel is completed I made a genuine effort to like them but it just isn't meant to be. Only open a little over a week and already it is understaffed, out of advertised sale items and one of the cashiers made a racist comment about the Sushi guys who "don't speak no English." (yes I called and reported her.) I asked the produce manager about the towers on either side of the Safeway castle and he said that there's nothing in them, they are just for show.

Whoever designed this store should be embarrassed. If you look really close it is shoddily completed--corners not square, railings not completely painted, the lipstick on a pig reference hit it on the head. The landscaping is atrocious and even calling it landscaping is an overstatement, it's just a bunch of poorly placed abused ground cover over-sprayed with stinky bark mulch.

Anyway, yes Brian, excellent article! I enjoyed reading it. I also liked your insight and observations on the Hawthorne grocery scene.

Randy Rapaport

Another microcosmic statement informing late capitalism. It is a mistake from the unconscious architecture to the size of the store. Thank goodness for New Seasons.


God, if they're going to do a cheap design, why not just build a concrete box with lots of front glass, some skylights and have a cool paint scheme like PNCA did with their building? This town is architecturally uninspiring enough as it is without junk like this polluting the streets. Unbelievable.


As an architect, I agree this building is shameful from all angles. As an architect who did not have to work on a big box projects until this recession hit, I now know that the architect of record has very little design control. I don't know Safeway specifically, but most corporate giants create their prototypes and, unless required by city zoning codes, do not modify them. Those wasteful and inappropriate towers are likely either pieces of the prototype or are "architectural features" added to satisfy the city. It's part of commercial branding strategies that each store would ideally look the same. In my recent experience, many zoning codes have adopted very similar language for requiring glazing, changes in height/roofline, color changes, architectural features, etc. But the prototypes have evolved with an "approved" kit of proto parts to be used to satisfy the codes. Need to break up a long wall?...add this pilaster group. Too much push from the architect of record to modify and the firm likely risks loosing the work altogether.

David Fischer

The new safeway on Barbur has the potential to be a monstrosity as well:

Ground level parking, store on the second level. Great for high density development but not very inviting if you ask me. Rooftop parking might have been a better choice.

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