Is this Amazon’s next store? Long-rumored site in Seattle area signals larger grocery ambitions

This former Safeway store in Bellevue, Wash., has long been rumored to be slated to be an Amazon store. (GeekWire Photos / Alan Boyle)

This is either an Amazon store, or someone is stealing the tech giant’s architecture.

Given the minimal probability of the latter, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the former Safeway store at 3903 Factoria Blvd. SE in Bellevue, Wash., will be a future Amazon retail location of some sort.

Looking at the similarities to the architecture of the first Amazon Fresh grocery store, in Woodland Hills, Calif. (below), that seems like a strong possibility.

Amazon Fresh in Woodland Hills, Calif. (dot.LA Photo)

And if that’s the case, it’s a hint that Amazon’s ambitions for expanding its traditional grocery store format are bigger than the company has previously let on. The growth of the Amazon Fresh brand comes even as the Seattle-based company continues to integrate its technology into Whole Foods Market, the upscale grocery chain that Amazon acquired for $13.7 billion three years ago.

The company has so far confirmed eight Amazon Fresh grocery stores: five in Southern California, and three in Illinois. For the record, Amazon declined to comment Wednesday when we asked about the Bellevue site.

The store in Bellevue would be the first Amazon Fresh Grocery store in the Seattle region, but not the region’s first Amazon Fresh location. The company has operated two Amazon Fresh Pickup locations in Seattle for more than three years. The Amazon Fresh brand originated in Seattle with the first pilot of the company’s grocery delivery service starting in 2007.

The new Bellevue property is part of a larger shopping mall, the Marketplace @ Factoria, formerly known as the Factoria Square Mall, and a short distance from T-Mobile’s corporate headquarters. Kimco Realty puts the footprint for the retail space and an adjacent area around 35,000 square feet, the same as the first Amazon Fresh store in California.

City permit filings and plans reviewed by GeekWire in recent months refer to the site as “Project Sesame,” with no direct Amazon references. The architectural firm listed on the plans, BRR Architecture, has also worked on other Amazon retail projects.

Blueprints show what appears to be a traditional grocery store layout, with no apparent Amazon Go-style lanes or other infrastructure for checkout-free shopping. That’s more evidence in support of the hypothesis that this store will be of the Amazon Fresh variety. The Amazon Fresh store in Southern California offers the option to use an Amazon Dash shopping cart.

Amazon recently opened its second Amazon Go Grocery location in Redmond, Wash., near the potential Amazon Fresh store in Bellevue. Amazon Go Grocery is a larger version of the company’s cashierless Amazon Go convenience stores. The first Amazon Go Grocery opened earlier this year in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.

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