After a two-year hiatus, Arlington's Rosslyn Safeway returns to Wilson Boulevard in January, bigger and officials say better than its predecessor.

The store, which will be located in the new Kaempfer Co. office building, its original location at 1525 Wilson Blvd., will be more than twice the size of the former store and will offer a variety of special services and gourmet foods.

"The specialty departments will go a long way in attracting customers," said Brian Dowling, a public relations manager for Safeway, who says he doubts the store will have a problem winning back old clientele. "Overall, there will just be a wider range of merchandise."

Dowling said the facility will be one of the company's modern "Food Emporium" stores and will include a fresh seafood department, a full-service deli-cheese shop, a pharmacy, a bakery, a salad and soup bar, and a plant and flower shop.

He said the store will also offer unusual and hard-to-find gourmet food items and will sell beer and wine.

The facility, which will be located a half-floor below ground, will be built toward the front of the 12-story Kaempfer building and will be visible from Wilson Boulevard. The store will be 31,000 square feet and have about 60 parking spaces. Kaempfer officials said additional parking spaces could be made available in an underground parking garage if necessary.

Safeway Stores agreed to close its 24-year-old Rosslyn store in November 1985 before the lease expired to allow Kaempfer to proceed with plans to construct an office building. In exchange, Kaempfer promised to lease space to the food chain when the building was complete.

The agreement was encouraged by county officials, who have made the retention and expansion of grocery stores in Arlington a high priority.

For two years, through combined efforts of Safeway, the Kaempfer Co. and the county's Economic Development Division, a free shuttle service has carried Rosslyn's senior citizens to Safeway's Arlington Cherrydale store.

Fred Schultz, Arlington's business development specialist, said that with the return of the Rosslyn Safeway, the county will have 19 large grocery stores. He said the number has remained stable since county officials strengthened their efforts to retain supermarkets several years ago when Grand Union closed four of its Arlington stores.

Schultz says a large grocery store is crucial to Rosslyn.

"A food store is an essential retail service in a community," he said. "To have a store like that disappear can really undermine a sense of community. It's as important as almost anything you can think of -- maybe not as important as a firehouse, but it's darn close."