LINCOLN PARK — Construction of a Walgreens along Armitage Avenue that stirred up contrasting community views is moving ahead at "full force" and is set to begin in late November or early December.
If all goes according to plan, the Walgreens should be open at 834 W. Armitage Ave. by fall 2014, according to Spiro Tsaparas, CEO of Centaur Construction.
"I'm excited to start. It's just very unfortunate that it's taken so much time," Tsaparas said.
It has been nearly a year since developer Mark Hunt tore down the Greater Little Rock The Lord's Church amid neighborhood complaints that a Walgreens would be out of place on the block.
During the wait, Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) held a neighborhood meeting with representatives from Walgreens as well as Hunt and the architect who presented initial renderings of the building.
Those plans, which showed a mostly brick and glass building, have not been changed, Tsaparas said.
"There are some changes to the interior in terms of how the layout is, but nothing that anyone would have ever seen," Tsaparas said. "The outside is the same."
The construction company originally planned to start building in mid-to-late summer, but plans were delayed as Walgreens worked on the interior design, Tsaparas said.
The plans have now been finalized, and the developer is looking to obtain permits in November.
Walgreens "cares a lot about that space, more than your typical store," Tsaparas said.
The proposed store will have about 15,000 square feet of retail space between the first, second and lower levels.
Walgreens will not be required to provide additional parking, as would have been the case if the first and second floor had more than 10,000 square feet of retail. They combine to take up 9,900 square feet and the basement level is not counted, according to city code.
Building a bigger than usual basement is going to mean a "little longer" construction time for a building of that size, according to Tsaparas.
He expects the job to take between 9 and 10 months.
"The city has been great, no issues with the city process or alderman's office," Tsaparas said.
The vacant site, which sits at the corner of Armitage and Dayton Street, has been boarded up and empty for months.
"There's been no activity whatsoever," said Charlie Caffrey, co-owner of McShane's Exchange located across the street from the site.
Upon hearing that the plans were moving forward, Caffrey, who has been opposed to the retailer moving into the historic shopping district, said it wasn't the end of the world.
"There's many factions I know that don't want it," he said. "I don't know anyone who is crazy to have it, but money talks."