BELLINGHAM - It appears Safeway is making plans to enter the turbulent Bellingham grocery industry.
The grocery company submitted an application to the city for a design review permit to remodel the former Cost Cutter space in the Sunset Square retail center. The plans call for major changes to the front of the building, remodeling the interior and reducing the square footage of the building from 75,188 square feet to 66,791 square feet.
The reduction in square footage would come from removing a portion of the southwest corner of the building. The plans indicate an outside seating area in the front portion of the building, along with a coffee shop inside the store.
Michelle Fleharty, real estate manager for Safeway, confirmed that the company is exploring opportunities to expand in Whatcom County.
“The former Cost Cutter space in Sunset Square shopping center is under consideration,” Fleharty said in an email.
A leasing agent representing Sunset Square said they do not comment on leasing activities.
Safeway currently has a store in Lynden and used to have stores in Bellingham until it left the Whatcom County market in 1993.
If Safeway decides to go into Sunset Square, it adds a new wrinkle to what’s been a year of change among Bellingham grocery stores:
-- The Market at Lakeway in the Lakeway Center begins its going-out-of-business sale on Friday, Dec. 13 and is expected to close after the New Year.
-- Earlier this year the Markets LLC closed the Meridian and Sunset Cost Cutter stores.
-- WinCo opened its store on East Bellis Fair Parkway in mid-August.
-- Fred Meyer did a major remodel of its Lakeway store and has started work at its Bakerview store.
The move would fill a major space in the mall, which is undergoing some significant changes. Goodwill is remodeling the former movie theater space to create more retail, office and classroom space for its store; permits were also filed to build a Taco Bell restaurant in the southeast corner of the former Cost Cutter parking lot.
“It’s got to be a plus for Sunset Square,” said Erin Sundean, a Bellingham commercial real estate agent who is not involved with Sunset Square. “It’ll be interesting to see how Safeway fits with all the nearby stores like Haggen and WinCo. I guess having another grocery store in Bellingham means the shopper wins.”
The public can submit written comments on Safeway’s design changes until Tuesday, Dec. 17. Written comments and requests for information can be sent by email to Bellingham Planner Brian Smart at firstname.lastname@example.org or to the city’s Planning and Community Development Department at 210 Lottie St., Bellingham, WA. 98225.