Georgetown "Social" Safeway

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Location: Georgetown, Washington, D.C.. Suburban

This contemporary market hall takes a formerly inhospitable stretch of Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown, Washington DC and transforms it into a vibrant, walkable corridor. the project replaced a previous supermarket with a suburban auto-oriented design with a parking lot on the street and the store set back from the street. the new store strengthens the urban fabric of Georgetown, defining both the street and the neighborhood.  

This precedent helps to show that the community can have it all - instant access to inexpensive goods and services it needs to have a healthy active lifestyle, as well as harmonious urban design and high quality architectural design.   

The contemporary market hall resolves one of the biggest challenges facing established urban communities today: finding solutions that incorporate large-format retailers in sustainable ways respecting our most sensitive urban fabric. the building’s arrangement and massing allows for a state-of-the-art store, while not burdening the public realm with blank walls that often accompany larger format “Big-Box” retail.   

The project demonstrates exemplary skill and creativity in the resolution and integration of formal, functional, and technical requirements including ecological stewardship and social responsibility that acknowledges and advances the social welfare of the Georgetown Community. few supermarkets in the United states reflect a stronger sense of place, ecology, history, or purpose as an integral part of demonstrated design excellence.

Response to Charter Principles

19.  A primary task of all urban architecture and landscape design is the physical definition of streets and public spaces as spaces of shared use.

The existing supermarket was not sensitive to the urban context of Upper Georgetown.  Its suburban model with a large parking lot between the street and the building could only be perceived as a hole and stuck out.  the new mixed-use building is sensitive to the surrounding context and serves to mend the hole in the neighborhood’s urban fabric.  It is able to define the street by providing a mix of uses and accommodates the pedestrian, public transit, and the automobile.

20.  Individual architectural projects should be seamlessly linked to their surroundings. This issue transcends style.

24.  Architecture and landscape design should grow from local climate, topography, history, and building practice.

We have carefully integrated our new development with the adjacent sites.  the mass of the building has been broken down with related façade themes, as the prevailing street frontage is characterized by small, older buildings with varying facades.  this, along with the gentle rise of grade to the rear of the project, reduces the apparent mass of the project from its surroundings.

The building’s identity respects the heritage of the neighboring context, but does not replicate or parrot the context.  our goal is to design a building that belongs to the context of Georgetown but yet stands out with a new City marketplace identity.   

22.  In the contemporary metropolis, development must adequately accommodate for automobiles.  It should do so in a way that respects the pedestrian and the form of public space. This urban supermarket accommodates shoppers who will be arriving by car but not at the expense of those arriving by foot or public transit.  the previous building had the market at the rear of the site with a parking lot fronting the street.  this strategy favored the automobile and made it difficult for those arriving by foot or bus.  the new market holds the street along Wisconsin Avenue and continues the current pedestrian-oriented streetscape at Wisconsin Avenue, with its street trees, bus shelters, and other pedestrianfriendly measures.  the roadway south of the market will include street trees and sidewalks along its length to the parking deck at the store’s rear.  Automobile parking is also accommodated under the market.  this parking location includes natural light through openings from the south and east of the site.  vehicles would access the site through two curb cuts located in almost identical places to where the existing curb cuts are located.  Multiple entry points to the store allow shoppers arriving by foot or car easy entry to the store.


Lessons Learned

Filling a Void by Defining the Street

Urban design goals are focused on enhancing the beauty and livability of the city by: 

Reinforcing its identity, 

Harmoniously integrating its new construction with its neighbors, and 

Improving the vitality, appearance, and security of streets and public spaces.  To achieve this there are no monolithic or box-like building forms or long blank walls which detract from the human quality of the street. the team worked hard to create visual interest through well-designed building facades, clear storefront windows at the ground floor, and attractive signage and lighting.

Designing “Big Box” to Human Scale

The design of this mixed use development is harmonious with its surroundings, and replaces a suburban auto-oriented design with one that is pedestrian oriented and transit friendly. The building is designed with three unique facade identities that break down the massing appropriate to the neighborhood and address the needs and characteristics of their respective orientation. Its design response respects basic block characteristics such as building alignment, access, proportion of openings, exterior architectural details, and heights.

A Fresh Response to Historic Georgetown

The architecture of the building is influenced by the historical surroundings of Georgetown, by the typology of the city market hall, and a strong sustainable perspective. Successful and productive meetings with the old Georgetown Board and the U.s. Commission of fine Arts resulted in the traditional vocabulary of Georgetown to be rethought in this contemporary market hall.

Transect Zone(s): T5 center.
Status: Complete
Project or Plan's Scale: Region
Land area (in acres): 3
Total built area (in sq. ft.): 87000
Total project cost (in local currency):
Retail area (in sq. ft.): 87000
Office area (in sq. ft.):
Industrial area (in sq. ft.):
Number of hotel units:
Number of residential units (include live/work):
Parks & green space (in acres):
Project team designers: Design Architect: Torti Gallas and Partners, Inc.; Store Architect: Rounds VanDuzer Architects
Project team developers: Safeway, Inc.

Previous site status: Redevelopment

Starting/Ending date of construction/implementation: - 2010