A large group marched in Aurora Saturday in protest of a vacant Albertson's/Safeway store they say is only inviting trouble into their neighborhood.
The march started in the parking lot of the Aurora Highlands shopping center off South Buckley Road and East Mexico Avenue.
The once thriving shopping center used to be anchored by a 46,000 square foot Safeway store. All that is left now are empty store shelves on the inside and an abandoned Safeway gas station on the outside.
"This is inviting graffiti," said Bruce Shapiro. He represents AZP Realty group which manages the shopping center. "It's inviting crime. It's inviting dumping," he added.
Other store owners in the same shopping center are simply trying to keep their businesses open.
Customer traffic has dropped dramatically since the grocery store closed, and since the lease on the property won't be up for a while, neighbors fear this will negatively affect their personal finances.
Community members are also upset the company is not getting something done faster.
"When you're a small business and you depend on every single day's revenue and sales, you can't afford to go days or weeks or heaven forbid months losing 50% of your business," said state representative Su Ryden. "You just can't do it," she said.
Some neighbors are worried about how it will affect their livelihoods if a new business doesn't move in soon.
"I'm concerned about the value of my property," said Karen Talley, who lives around the corner from the shopping center.
Albertson's/Safeway sent 7NEWS the following statement in regards to the situation:
“Closing our Safeway store at Buckley and Mexico in the Highlands Shopping Center was a difficult decision made after long and careful deliberation. We are very close to securing a new tenant in the location and we are confident this tenant will bring value and activity to the site. We are working through a due diligence process to make sure we get this tenant in place in a timely manner and we have no plans to keep the site empty. We have also scheduled a significant remodel for our Albertsons store at Buckley and Mississippi. We remained committed to our customers, neighbors and surrounding businesses and we hope to announce a new tenant soon.”
-Kris Staaf, Director of Public Affairs, Albertsons/Safeway
Protesters are not convinced.
"I don't believe they have anybody for the space," said Shapiro. "We have an excellent nationally recognized grocer now and if they cared about the neighborhood they would be working with the ownership group to get that tenant in," he said.
If another grocer did move in, it could be a competitor for an Albertson's a mile down the road.
"They're more concerned about their bottom line," said Talley. "Trying to increase their bottom line on the backs of the residents is not right," she said.
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