Why all the fuss over an old Highland Park supermarket? *

The former Safeway supermarket, most recently a Big Lots discount outlet, on York Boulevard is one of the rare examples of mid-century commercial architecture in Highland Park. A landmark nomination had been submitted to the city to have the building, constructed in 1967 as one of Safeway’s “Marina prototype” stores, declared a historic cultural monument. So, neighborhood history and architecture fans were pleased to hear that the new tenant, a grocery store chain known as El Super, had committed to follow historic preservation standards as they prepared the store for opening.

But at a Tuesday night meeting, El Super’s representative, Dave Radanovich, appeared to have lost his appreciation for mid-century markets. He not only failed to present preservation-friendly plans as promised but indicated that the chain would oppose the building’s historic landmark application, which goes before the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission this morning *, said Nicole Possert with the Highland Park Heritage Trust.

“Mr Radanovich reversed El Super’s position, breaking their word and commitment to preserve this community asset,” she said.

Preservationists were also surprised to discover that the Cultural Heritage staff had declined to recommend landmark status for the former Safeway. That means they face an uphill battle despite the praise given the building by noted Los Angeles architectural historian Alan Hess:

“Safeway’s prototype exemplifies how businesses, as good corporate citizens and neighbors, invested in good architecture for buildings that were part of the daily life of millions. This is the lesson that this building teaches us – and is one of the reasons why it is a cultural monument.”

* Update @ 6:46 PM: The commission voted voted 2-1 for designation, which means the item stays on their agenda until the next meeting, reports Possert. El Super’s building permit remains on hold until the commission acts or a 75 day time period ends.

Top photo by Al Strange; Bottom by Waltarrrr via Flickr

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