Mayor Marion Barry, receiving a warm reception in a ward that virtually turned its back on him in last year's election, stood with beaming Cleveland Park citizens outside a Connecticut Avenue Safeway store yesterday to announce the grocery would delay its scheduled closing by at least a month.
Barry's upbeat appearance in Ward 3 followed the release Tuesday of his administration's plan, popular with many residents, to support curbs on development along Connecticut Avenue NW from Florida Avenue north to the District line at Chevy Chase.
"We want to retain the neighborhood character" of the avenue, Barry said to applause from a group of about 100 officials and residents, many of them elderly residents who live near the Safeway at 3427 Connecticut Avenue.
D.C. Council member Jim Nathanson (D-Ward 3), who is working to keep a food store in the area, praised Barry as the "cleanup hitter" who helped persuade Safeway to delay the closing.
Barry's Safeway appearance punctuated a day in which the mayor crisscrossed the city to discuss development, help formulate coordinated snow removal plans with area governments and sign formal papers to transfer St. Elizabeths hospital from federal to District authority.
Barry's public appearances continue the high public profile he has maintained for several weeks in the wake of criticism that he allowed continuing federal investigations of his administration to interfere with city business and his personal life.
Barry has met with nearly all of his major cabinet members and asked them to schedule more events to show positive things that he is doing.
Barry was drawn into the Safeway issue after residents complained that the store was closing abruptly, leaving little time for them to find a replacement grocer.
Safeway officials said Barry's intervention persuaded them to change the closing date from Oct. 17 to Nov. 28, the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
About 300 concerned citizens have formed an ad hoc Save Our Supermarket committee in an effort to get Safeway to remain open at least until January, while other arrangements are pursued.
Safeway announced it was closing the store because the owners of the building, which have put it up for sale for $2 million, did not renew the lease.
The store has been operating on a month-to-month basis since September of last year. "There's absolutely no reason to stay there in a situation where we have no chance of improving our situation," Larry Johnson, a Safeway spokesman, said yesterday.
Johnson confirmed that the small store makes a profit for the company.
Johnson said, however, that the Cleveland Park Safeway, with 7,000 square feet, is in poor repair and far smaller than the 40,000-square-foot stores it prefers to operate.
Representatives of two elderly women who own the building have said they have not asked for an increase in the lease and that it would take about 90 days to complete a sale of the property -- time enough, residents say, for the store to remain open through December.
Later in the day, at the special news conference to discuss the transfer of St. Elizabeths Hospital from the federal government, Barry termed the city takeover "a historic occasion that represents a major step toward increased home rule" in the District.
The mayor also announced that the District had leased the former Pride Inc. building at 16th and U streets NW for use as an outpatient clinic for children and their families. Barry, once a street activist, helped found the Pride organization as a self-help program for city youths. Staff writer Karlyn Barker contributed to this report.