Thursday, July 1, 2010

Safeway leads the pack

I live in a wasteland of big box stores with miles and miles of asphalt. Well, not entirely true, but the Twin Cities is plagued with parking lot footprints that exceed the footprint of the store it is supplying parking for. I get frustrated because this is such a simple fix to create a more user friendly store in the core urban areas and even the suburbs. As with most things, we need an example we can point to so that the large retailers can see that it actually works.

This safeway in Georgetown is a becon of light:

The recently rebuilt "Social Safeway" on Wisconsin Avenue NW, at the northern edge of Georgetown, is not just another remodeled supermarket. It represents a positive evolution in thinking about merchandising strategy and about being a good citizen through pedestrian-friendly architecture and urban design.

This new supermarket follows a completely different set of rules than its predecessor. Safeway and other supermarket chains traditionally have adhered dogmatically to rules about selection of sites for stores and, in particular, rules about how such sites should be developed. And one of the primary rules was: Cars rule.

For decades, supermarket thinking was driven by one dominant premise. Motorists approaching a shopping destination absolutely had to see -- and expected to see -- a parking lot with plenty of spaces directly in front of the supermarket. Otherwise, it was assumed, they would drive elsewhere to shop. Further, part of the gospel was the belief that setting back a supermarket from the road gives drivers more time to see the store and read its signage.

Maybe we can bring this new concept to the Midway (picture above) in the heart of the Twin Cities.

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