The Safeway Model

I thought I would take a Google Streetview tour to explore a phenomenon I’ve noticed about Safeway stores in Vancouver. See if you can spot the trend.

Kitsilano, 4th and Vine

Point Grey, 10th and Tolmie

Arbutus Village, Arbutus St and King Edward Ave

King Edward, King Edward Ave and Oak St

Granville, Granville St and 70th

Commercial-Broadway Skytrain Station, East 10th and Commercial Dr

Ah yes. They all have ample parking. In fact the Safeway Model seems to favour cars over pedestrians. For these stores in Vancouver, the trend is an enormous building footprint surrounded by acres of surface parking. This surface parking is disastrous for pedestrian movement, particularly at the busy Kitsilano store on West 4th Ave where cars and pedestrians have to continuously battle for space and priority. Also, the last image is the store located next to the Commercial-Broadway SkyTrain Station – is this how we should be developing transit hubs?

To be fair, there are a few exceptions. Like the West End Safeway on Davie Street, or the Broadway and Macdonald Street store, below, which have underground parking.

Macdonald, Broadway and Macdonald St

Still, the unusually large driveway, blank walls and drive-through RBC ATM create a particularly unpleasant street realm for pedestrians.  This clear favoritism of cars over people and incredibly wasteful use of land that is beloved by the American grocery chain might soon be at its end.

Here is what is happening on the former parking lot of the IGA store at Broadway and Arbutus. Goodbye, Safeway Model.

IGA, Before

IGA, After


17 responses to “The Safeway Model

  1. I feel like you’ve missed the opportunity to mention the plans to redevelop the Marpole Safeway store, which will be pushed forward to the street with underground parking. As well, a number of other, denser buildings will be added to the site. Thats the safeway model to come as this giant starts to seriously redevelop their significant realestate holdings. Just think of it. ‘Parking lots – an investment in future development.’ Check out for more.

  2. Excellent example Robert. I also did not mention that the Arbutus Village location will be redeveloped into a denser, walkable community. But for every Safeway parking lot in Vancouver that is redeveloped, another bigger Safeway surrounded by surface parking opens elsewhere. I can think of at least two along Hastings Street in Burnaby. Or in Nanaimo, as mentioned above.

    Maybe it’s actually a “Vancouver Model” that is pushing Safeway to reconsider the use of its land holdings in the City, not the Safeway model to come.

  3. I don’t think this can be so much pinned as the Safeway model, but as the large, retail format model in general. Look at the Shoppers Drug Mart on Davie, or any of the other number of mini-strip mall developments that include a large parking lot between sidewalk and store (Kingsway Mall–shudder). I haven’t checked the zoning bylaws in Vancouver, but I’m gonna guess that this kind of setback with parking isn’t allowed anymore, especially downtown, which is why newer Safeways like the one built at the southern edge of Robson street aren’t built like that, and newer large format stores like Cambie’s big box village are built right up to the sidewalk and don’t have many blank walls.

  4. Something a little less about the development of the Safeway model and more it’s architecture: I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but most all original Safeways on the west coast have the unique arched roof. Many of the older Safeways have this style building, and even grocery stores that have replaced the Safeways in those spaces, still have it. For instance, the Buy-Low on 45th/Fraser was certainly a Safeway. I live near here, and immediately knew this from looking at it. (,-123.090885&spn=0.001014,0.00199&sll=49.261226,-123.113927&sspn=0.259457,0.509491&hnear=Fraser+St+%26+E+45th+Ave,+Vancouver,+Greater+Vancouver+Regional+District,+British+Columbia,+Canada&t=h&z=19&layer=c&cbll=49.229186,-123.091068&panoid=-EwpOGJidgbd-23v35o44w&cbp=12,346.78,,0,6.06)

    Anyway, just a thought and observation that I am always paying attention to….

  5. Since I used to work in commercial real estate as a broker/analyst in the West coast (Vegas), retail developers are only trying to satisfy zoning requirements and adjust their products to what can get financed the easiest by Wall Street. Minimum parking requirements, single-use zoning, right-of-ways, subsidies etc. have created this nightmare of products. Safeway, but especially Walmart was able to create a successful model and reproduced it with the help of readily available funding from the finance sector.
    It all looks the same, the reports look the same, so everybody is familiar with it. It worked for a while, but it won’t in the future.

  6. well whats common with all the pics shown is they are all older and built before good transit – as safeway sees fit or can they redevelop their sites, like west broadway, davie street, robson street to what the trend is today, underground parking etc.

  7. also the safeway at city square (12th & cambie) isn’t in an asphalt sea. tho not sure the mall format is that urban friendly either

  8. Pingback: New Westminster’s Plaza 88 – The Good, the Bad, and the Industrial | City Caucus·

  9. Many good posts and comments here. I especially like Jacint Simon’s post – very lucent and succinct.

    The thing to bear in mind is that most of the safeways shown in the photos are 40 or 50 years old. Of course planning, design, financing and development models have changed over 50 years.

    I would contest that Safeway is actually one of the more progressive commercial developers around. For a long time, they had a stranglehold on Vancouver. They were basically the only grocery chain to be found in the city. Now that they are being challenged by Costco, SaveOn, Superstore, IGA, Walmart, T&T, and probably others, they are being forced to be creative.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s