Safeway Public Information Meeting

Tuesday night was another busy evening for community meetings and events.  I attended the latest 13th Avenue Safeway Store public information meeting, held at the Cathedral Neighbourhood Centre (for more on the first meeting, see this post). 

I thought the meeting went well: both residents and applicant effectively articulated their points-of-view.  I feel that both groups could be disappointed, however, that there seems to be little room for compromise. 

The most telling example of the lack of compromise came when the question was asked: why does Safeway want to change a building so many enjoy and admire, for something very ordinary?  Why doesn’t Safeway have respect for their own building?  The direct answer was that the building didn’t work for Safeway any longer.  The reasons behind Safeway’s branding weren’t explained well, but the corporation’s representative made it clear the Marina design was out.

Basically, Safeway is looking to brand its stores a certain way and older brands no longer fit.  There is a life-style brand that Safeway insists on and this can be customized, as in this case, but requires certain design guidelines. 

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For example, part of the aesthetic of the re-branded facade is the use of windows, especially in the entrance way.  Much of these windows do not function (allow light in or visuals out).  That may lead to less natural light and a greater reliance on internal (theatrical) lighting,  a key Safeway branding tool. 

Many community disliked theatrical lighting and the sense of a placeless that reducing functioning window space may create inside. 

The applicants did their best to stress urgency in approving the project.  Delays, it was warned, could see market share shift further to the Grasslands Wal-Mart (a particular villain among competitors) and could damage the location’s viability.  The low margins (2% was a figure mentioned) in the grocery industry was a further factor impeding an expensive redevelopment.  The applicant stated early on that, although Safeway is a large corporation, the decision to renew 13th Avenue Safeway was down to the viability of that store alone.    Store size correlated to profitability and was important in the phased development plan.  With the store never closing during construction, new spaces would have to be open so older spaces could be renovated or rebuilt.  


The mural on Robinson Street was the most heated issue.  Councillor Clipsham was in attendance and he explained how he got in contact with Bob Boyer’s widow in an attempt to retain or reproduce the mural.   It was clear that she supported maintaining the mural if possible but that it shouldn’t be reproduced in any way. 

Community members expressed various ideas about preservation with the proponents simply saying all options are possible if it’s a priority.   It was mentioned that a costly preservation could take funds away from other amenities such as benches or new art work.  The representative from P3 Architecture expressed concern over the stability of the West wall and suggested, regardless of precautions, any removal would damage the bricks and ultimately the mural.

Safeway Public Information Meeting

6 thoughts on “Safeway Public Information Meeting

  1. Barb Saylor says:

    Thanks for this, Martin.
    As this store is the closest to a “downtown” grocery store available, with no other grocery retailer being on the horizon, I think, if it were me, I’d opt for a changed grocery staore rather than none at all, but that’s just an outsider opinion.
    I will add that not long ago, I learned from a Cathedral area resident that the application brought forward to establish the 13th Avenue Coffee House faced so much local opposition that the project nearly didn’t happen. Now this business is emblematic of the neighbourhood.

    1. Martin Gourlie says:

      Thanks for your reply Barb.

      I agree with you that retaining a grocery store in Cathedral is the bottom line. Some people dislike like the expansion and losing four homes in the neighbourhood. Most people who are concerned about the changes are focusing on the exterior look of the new project. Many of the voices against the latest renders are not against improving the store in some way.

      Even at last Tuesday’s meeting, Safeway would not say for sure the current store, which they stressed remains profitable, would close if the expansion did not happen. What they have said, and I feel they have not made their case very well, was that they wont retain the marina facade or neon elements of the sign-post, because it ‘doesn’t work for Safeway.’

      It will be interesting to see how the change is received if it goes forward. Your point about 13th Ave Coffee house is a good one. I see one important difference between accepting Safeway and 13th Ave Coffee Shop: the coffee shop blends into the neighbourhood much better than Safeway. The Safeway stands out as the community’s commercial centre (I consider the Safeway parking lot the neighbourhood’s central square) and so it must resonate as a ‘Cathedral Neighbourhood space’ more than most buildings.

  2. Barb Saylor says:

    The opponents of the 13th Ave Coffee House development didn’t want to wait for the business to grow on them. I see the same pigheadedness in the opposition to the proposed Safeway redesign.

    1. Brett Bell says:

      Nothing “pigheaded” in most of the opposition, i.e. by definition stupidly obstinate. Most of the counterarguments are not rooted in stupidity, but in reasoned response. “Stubbornness” would be a more appropriate word choice, and one that does not impugn the intelligence of those you may not agree with.

      As to the 13th Avenue Coffee House and its opening in 1993, I believe the major issue for its detractors was the possibility it might be licensed, although I could be misremembering. For decades there was a group of people determined to keep all establishments in Cathedral “dry,” for better or for worse. The primary difference was that there was marked enthusiasm for the proposed coffee house from its proponents, rather than meagre acceptance.

  3. Barb Saylor says:

    As to “impugn[ing] the intelligence of those you may not agree with”, in view of past posts and comments, I’d have to say “pot, kettle”.
    Regarding the oppostion to the 13th Avenue Coffee House development proposal, the person who informed me of it said that the objectors objected to everything about it, large issues or small, and that the proposal was very nearly withdrawn because of the hassle.
    “Marked enthusiasm” is in the eye of the beholder, I guess, because in looking over the many comments on the relevant posts, I see marked enthusiasm for a larger facility and more choice/services.

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