Residents struggle to keep Watergate Safeway open

A city representative is helping locals push back against Safeway’s decision to shutter its Watergate Complex store, highlighting the residents’ fears that they will have to shell out more cash at other high-end grocers.

Ward 2 D.C. councilmember Jack Evans wrote a letter to Safeway officials Nov. 7, asking the company to reconsider its decision to shut down the Watergate store. Local residents mailed in a petition earlier this fall with nearly 1,300 signatures requesting to keep the store open.

Safeway spokesman Craig Muckle said two weeks ago that the corporation will not renew its lease due to issues with the shop’s landlord. Rumors circulated for months that Safeway planned to shut down, following increased competition from the upscale Whole Foods Market at The Avenue, in addition to Trader Joe’s near Pennsylvania Avenue and 25th Street.

The store will close its doors Dec. 3.

Muckle declined to comment on whether Safeway’s revenues saw a slump after Whole Foods opened this September.

Evans offered to aid negotiations between Safeway and Watergate leasing officials to reach an agreement to extend the lease and salvage the store.

“If you can share with me, and the many concerned constituents in Foggy Bottom who will be losing their neighborhood store, more details as to why you are closing, perhaps we can find a way to overcome the issues so that you can stay,” he wrote.

Trish Hoffman, spokeswoman for the lease managers for the shop, Capri Capital Partners, declined to comment.

Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Armando Irizarry said Safeway has yet to respond to Evans’ letter.

He also said he invited Safeway representatives to Wednesday’s Advisory Neighborhood Commision meeting but has not yet received a response, adding that he is waiting for a letter explaining Safeway’s formal reason for closing the store.

“I’m hoping to have the letter before the meeting to share with the community and talk about what can do about the situation,” Irizarry said.

Alumnus and Advisory Neighborhood commissioner Asher Corson said the announcement of Safeway’s closure was not surprising.

“I think most people expected that this would happen sooner or later, because the conditions that Safeway was being forced to deal with were simply deplorable,” he said. “They were paying top dollar for a retail space that was terribly taken care of.”

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