Photo by Jessica Keller
The 21Boston/Safeway project, which will replace the current Safeway on Queen Anne Avenue North with a larger one plus add 344 housing units, will no longer begin Oct. 15. The project has been pushed back after the development hit a number of delays.
Photo by Jessica Keller The 21Boston/Safeway project, which will replace the current Safeway on Queen Anne Avenue North with a larger one plus add 344 housing units, will no longer begin Oct. 15. The project has been pushed back after the development hit a number of delays.

The start of construction on the 21Boston and Safeway project on Queen Anne has been delayed until after the first of the year.

The project is for a mixed-use commercial and residential complex with seven stories and 324 apartment units, parking for 344 units and a new 50,000-square-foot Safeway at 2100 Queen Anne Avenue North.

Construction, initially slated to begin with the demolition of the current 30,000-square-foot Safeway on  Oct. 15, has been postponed to Jan. 12, 2022.

Developer Maria Barrientos, principal at barrientosRyan LLC, said their agreement with Safeway has always included a blackout period provision, stating that if construction didn’t begin by Oct. 15, then work would be pushed to after the first of the year to allow Safeway to take advantage of the holiday season. Barrientos stated Safeway officials were willing to miss two holiday seasons, but not three.

Construction had to be postponed because all the necessary preliminary work would not be finished by Oct. 15 for a multitude of reasons.

“I feel like I’m working way harder to do a project than I ever had to do before,” Barrientos said. “It’s just a confluence of problems that have come together at one time.”

Barrientos said she can’t pinpoint just one reason for the delay.

“Permitting has taken significantly longer than we originally anticipated, and I would say that it was mostly due to COVID,” Barrientos said. “It’s just been a lot more difficult to get reviews in a timely manner because of COVID and the fact that city staff is still working from home.”

Plus, with a project of this size comes a lot of paperwork to be filed.

“There’s a lot of paperwork and hoops to jump through and so many legal documents,” Barrientos said.

The development also hit snags with pre-construction work, including working with utility companies to have lights and electrical lines moved.

“I don’t want to sound negative, but getting the public utilities to coordinate with us has been very difficult and arduous,” Barrientos said, adding hopefully progress will be made in that area soon, but it was not going to be finished before the Oct. 15 deadline.

She said she and her team had been working “manically” to get all the preliminary work finished before Oct. 15, and they are exhausted. She said they decided to not try to force things, but to make sure they have time to get everything finished before work begins.

“I’m not sure if it’s just COVID,” Barrientos said. “It’s just the timing of everything is just delayed.”

Another challenge is ensuring COVID-19 safety protocols are in place among all the subcontractors by the time work begins, accounting for the Delta variant, Barrientos said.

One of the other big reasons behind the delay is cost of materials has gone up significantly.

“This is a $100 million construction project,” Barrientos said. “Just a 2 percent commodity price hike is huge.”

Barrientos said material prices have gone up 4 to 5 percent from 10 months ago, which accounts for $5 million out of $100 million, a $2.5 million increase for lumber alone. She said the development team is trying to figure out the best way to account for the price increases and make sure they have the amount of materials necessary for the project.

Barrientos said delaying the project’s start will give the developer more time for public outreach, letting nearby neighbors and business owners what to expect during the construction.

She said she is not sure business owners fully understand what the impacts will be and wants to develop open communication with them. Barrientos said it will take approximately two years for the new Safeway building to be finished, with a five-month lag on completion of the housing units.