PHOENIX — One year ago, a Safeway in the northwest part of Phoenix erupted into flames, sending massive plumes of dark smoke into the air. Now, redevelopment is in the works.
Today, 365 days later, temporary fencing surrounds the charred remains of what is left of the building. The roof is gone. The front entrance is one big hole. A few rows of shopping carts have been collected in one area. And the shadows of the "Safeway," "Wells Fargo," and "Pharmacy" signs that were once illuminated have been seemingly burned into the walls.
A month after the fire, Safeway said it would not rebuild.
But, there are redevelopment plans in the works.
SimonCRE, a Scottsdale-based commercial real estate development company, announced this week that it purchased the "Park Northern" shopping center near 35th and Northern avenues, and plans to invest $18 million over the next "several years" to renovate it and bring in new tenants.
Part of those plans include opening a 60,000-square-foot VASA Fitness where the Safeway was, said Joshua Simon, the founder and CEO of SimonCRE.
"There was the opportunity to do something good for the community there. You have an empty shopping center that has crime, businesses going out of business. And you've seen that center is mostly vacant, but with this new proposed VASA, we hope to turn that around," Simon told ABC15 in a FaceTime interview on Thursday.
Most of that $18 million investment will be used over the next 12-18 months, he said, including upgrades to the shopping center's appearance, such as adding a new coat of paint or a new roof.
There is also a need to bring in new businesses. Currently, the shopping center is mostly vacant aside from a Subway, H&R Block, Chuck E. Cheese, and a few other companies.
"We hope to bring really good uses that complement that area, whether that's medical or more restaurants, something that people can walk to, whether that's [for the] apartments behind or across the street. Make it much more of a walkable shopping center," he said.
No other businesses were announced, but Simon said: "We've had a ton of interest since we've closed."
Demolition on the shopping center would start within the next 30-60 days, and construction on the VASA Fitness should begin later this year, he said. The renovations are expected to be fully completed by early 2021.
He knows that some people will be disappointed that there are no plans to bring another grocery store.
"We're not replacing the grocery store which I know a lot of residents really would like, but at the time same, we're creating new opportunities for people and fixing an eyesore for that community," he said. "Right now, some of the neighbors behind have complained about how there's some homeless population, crime going on in the shopping center because when nobody is around those types of activities will happen."
"We really look at this as a long-term project and really investing in the community. There is so much exciting stuff going around in this whole area whether it be Metrocenter or the light rail center. There is a lot of positive things going on this area, and we're excited to be a part of it," he said.