Bozzuto Group close to partnership with Safeway for Tenleytown development


The Safeway store in the District’s Tenleytown neighborhood. (Jeffrey MacMillan/JEFFREY MACMILLAN FOR WASHINGTON POST)

For decades, Safeway and Giant Food have been competitors in the District, but as the companies navigate the thorny process of redeveloping stores in wealthy Northwest neighborhoods, they are looking to the same housing developer: the Bozzuto Group.

Both grocers would like to transform dated stores into mixed-use developments despite sometimes vicious opposition to new development from residents living nearby.

Giant worked for more than a decade — creating one of the region’s longest running development feuds — to win approval to redevelop its Cleveland Park store, at 3336 Wisconsin Ave. NW, before tapping Bozzuto from a wide pool of interested developers last year.

After clearing final legal challenges, the partners broke ground on the $125 million project two weeks ago. Called Cathedral Commons, it encompasses two blocks and is to feature a 56,000-square-foot Giant grocery store, 137 apartments, more than 500 parking spaces and nearly 70,000 square feet of other shops and restaurants.

Bozzuto is close to locking up a similar deal with Safeway for its property in the Wisconsin Avenue corridor, a 34,000-square-foot store at 4203 Davenport St. NW, in Tenleytown, where it envisions a 58,000-square-foot store, with some 150 apartments on top and 10 to 15 town homes.

The grocer built a successful store as part of the CityVista mixed-use project in Mount Vernon Triangle, and followed that with agreements in Wheaton and Petworth that are to create Safeway-anchored apartment projects in those neighborhoods.

Its start in Tenleytown has not been so smooth. As it had in Wheaton and Petworth, Safeway chose Clark Realty Capital as a development partner for its Tenleytown store.

Clark and John Torti of Torti Gallas and Partners architects spent more than a year meeting with residents and addressing questions about the height of the project and how it could affect everything from the views from neighbors’ back porches to the way daylight entered the neighborhood. But after all the slide shows, presentations and community workshops, Safeway and Clark parted ways recently.

Safeway’s Tim Baker, vice president of eastern division real estate, said that the separation was a result of the difficult financing environment. “At the end of the day, it just didn’t work for them,” he said. “There was no disagreement.”

Enter Bozzuto. Founded in 1988 by Thomas S. Bozzuto, chief executive and chairman, it has developed more than 19,000 housing units, and manages thousands more in the Washington area, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New England.

Baker and Toby S. Bozzuto, president of Bozzuto Development, cautioned that the companies had not yet finalized a deal. With the Giant project, Greenbelt-based Bozzuto Group said it was creating “a new vision of urban community planning and development to the District of Columbia.” In Tenleytown, it may have a chance to put that vision to the test.

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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