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Old Safeway site to be developed

This is an architect’s rendering of the six-level, mixed-use Aviara building, formerly named “Arterra,” which is planned for the site of the old Safeway building. - Contributed art
This is an architect’s rendering of the six-level, mixed-use Aviara building, formerly named “Arterra,” which is planned for the site of the old Safeway building.
— image credit: Contributed art

After sitting vacant for years, the two acre tract of land at the North end of 76th Avenue S.E,, which at one time was a Safeway store, will be re-developed.

Tim Stewart, the director of developmental services group for the city of Mercer Island, said the project is moving forward.

“We are quite close to issuing permits,” Stewart said. “If all goes well, we should have a permit complete in a couple of weeks.”

The project, named “Aviara” will be a six-level mixed use building with one floor of below-grade parking, a ground level accommodating different commercial uses and four floors of apartments.

The new building will have an estimated 166 residential units, and 312 parking spaces with 85 set aside for business customers. A total of 12,000 square feet will be for retail spaces, a restaurant or professional offices.

The property belongs to Hynes Properties, LLC. A family venture, Hynes has owned the property since the 1960s. The developer, BRE Properties, headquartered in San Francisco, has secured a long term land lease from Hynes Properties, which will play no active role in the project.

BRE has a permit to tear the old Safeway down. Built in 1967, the assessed valuation of the property and building is $8,085,100 this year compared to $2,072,100 ten years ago. A spokesman for Hynes Properties, and the project architect, Mithun architects, said ground breaking should occur in April 2011.

The spokesman for Hynes Properties, LLC said Safeway moved out of the building in the 1990s when a new Safeway was built in Factoria. A commercial plant rental business called Rentokil moved in sub-leasing from Safeway, but it moved out in December of 2008, leaving the building empty and a blight on the Mercer Island landscape.

A stand-alone elevator on the south side of the old Safeway will be torn down, too. The spokesman for Hynes Properties, LLC said in the “old days” the Safeway was actually up the hill above where it was later relocated. The elevator was built to connect the two properties.

Blair Stone with Mithun said the residential units will be strictly apartments, not condominiums.

“We have space available for a restaurant, sandwich shop, professional offices, or retail,” Stone said.

Stone said Wallace Properties of Bellevue will broker the retail/professional space, and BRE will manage both the residential and commercial tenants. Blair said the commercial space can be configured to suit tenant’s needs.

This is not the first project of BRE's in King County. BRE manages three communities in Bellevue including one named Belcarra, two in Bothell, one in Mill Creek, two in Redmond, one in Renton, three in Seattle including Citywalk, Taylor 28 and The Audrey at Belltown and Ballinger Commons in Shoreline.

Vice-president of development and investment for BRE, John Wayland, could not give specifics on the apartments or potential rents but he did say the ramp on the south side of the property that leads up to the small strip mall up above will be vacated. A plaza will be incorporated on the south side, which could serve as outdoor seating for a potential restaurant.

BRE’s Web site states "BRE develops, acquires, and manages highly desirable apartment communities in the west's most sought after places to live. The company is adept at urban in fill developments located close to mass transit and other valued amenities of city life.”

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