BELLINGHAM - Safeway officially announced that it will be returning to Bellingham this fall.
The company is investing $13 million to remodel the former Cost Cutter building at Sunset Square as well as install a gas station at the northwest corner of Sunset Drive and James Street, near Starbucks.
Construction is expected to begin in May, with an opening planned for October, according to a company news release.
The store will have 67,000 square feet of space, allowing the company to include all of its specialty departments. That includes a scratch bakery, fresh deli, wine department, an organic and natural foods section, a Starbucks kiosk and a pharmacy.
In total, the store will employ about 130 people, said Sara Osborne, public and government affairs director at Safeway. She said a decision has not been made on what hours the store will be open.
Safeway also plans to offer several specialty categories, including gluten-free products, humane-certified options, grass-fed beef and local products. It also will have a gathering space with seating, a fireplace and free Wi-Fi.
The pharmacy, which is currently in operation next door to the soon-to-be-remodeled store, will remain open during construction.
The Bellingham Safeway will be smaller than the 75,188-square-foot former Cost Cutter. Plans include removing a portion of the southwest corner of the building to put in an outside seating area.
Safeway currently has a store in Lynden and had stores in Bellingham until it left the city in 1993.
The new grocery store and fueling station will fill a significant amount of space in Sunset Square, which is undergoing a makeover. Goodwill is remodeling the former Regal movie theater space to create more retail, office and classroom space for its nearby store, and permits were submitted to build a Taco Bell in the southeast corner of the former Cost Cutter parking lot.
Safeway Inc. currently operates 1,335 stores in the U.S. and had sales of $36.1 billion in 2013. It is currently in negotiations to merge with Albertsons, a deal that needs approval from shareholders as well as the Federal Trade Commission.
Osborne said plans for the Bellingham Safeway have not changed with the merger announcement.
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