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Lincoln Park Walgreens Tree Teardown Angers Neighbors

By Paul Biasco | April 1, 2014 11:08am | Updated on April 1, 2014 11:43am
 Neighbors of the upcoming Walgreens at 834 W. Armitage Ave. are angry after a construction crew cut down three large trees on the site, which were supposed to be spared.
Armitage Walgreens Construction
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LINCOLN PARK — Neighbors near a Walgreens development on Armitage Avenue are furious after a construction crew cut down three large trees near the construction site.

The trees were supposed to be spared, according to neighbors, but were removed to make way for construction trucks.

"At first, we thought they were cutting branches, and we realized they were very quickly taking down all the trees," said Kristi Nuelle, who lives next door to the site at 834 W. Armitage Ave. "Lincoln Park is so attractive because there are trees everywhere."

The move will cost Centaur Construction about $170,000 in fees and replacement costs, according to 43rd Ward Ald. Michele Smith.

"We called them into our office, and we made it very clear to them that future incidents like this would not be tolerated," Smith said.

The construction crew removed the three stumps last week.

Calls to the company, Centaur Construction, for comment were unreturned. A supervisor at the site said the original plan was to keep the trees, but that would have meant large trucks and construction equipment would have to park on Armitage Avenue.

Smith said the removal of the trees was "valid" by city code, but the developer had made an agreement to communicate with the neighborhood and alderman's office before taking any actions that would affect the neighborhood.

Smith's office is now requiring Centaur Construction to provide a weekly email to the immediate neighborhood with construction updates, the alderman said.

"We are really requiring this contractor to live up and be a good neighbor here," she said.

The project has been controversial in the neighborhood, as many residents and business owners have argued it would change the face of the stretch of Armitage.

The street has been occupied by small businesses, boutiques and cafe-style restaurants.

The Walgreens is being constructed on the site of the former Greater Little Rock The Lord's Church, which developer Mark Hunt tore down in October 2012.

Nuelle said she and other neighbors met with Smith and Spiro Tsaparas, CEO of Centaur Construction, about six weeks ago. The neighbors wanted to see the final plans for the Walgreens and were told they would have them within two weeks, according to Nuelle. 

They still haven't seen the plans, and a lawyer representing the neighbors filed a Freedom of Information Act request for them, but was denied, Nuelle said.

The latest issue with the trees coming down "reignited" a lot of the neighborhood, according to Nuelle.

Another point of contention with neighbors will be the operating hours of the business, which have not been agreed upon.

Smith said her office was still working with the neighbors and Walgreens to come up with an operating agreement.