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Walgreens Set to Open on Armitage Despite Community Objections

By Paul Biasco | April 14, 2015 5:41am
 The Walgreens at 834 W. Armitage is set to open in early May.
Armitage Walgreens
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LINCOLN PARK — It's more than a year-and-a-half behind schedule, but the controversial Walgreens slated for Armitage Avenue is finally ready to open.

The 15,000-square-foot drugstore will be located on a block known for its boutique fashion retailers and mom-and-pop businesses.

Because of that, as well as the historic esthetic and history of the street, business owners and residents have argued the shop would be out of place.

The site, 834 W. Armitage Ave., was formerly the Greater Little Rock Baptist Church, which was demolished to make way for the Walgreens in late 2012.

The Baptist church moved to Humboldt Park that same year.

While there are a few kinks to work out, the Walgreens is planning to open in early May, according to company spokesman Phil Caruso.

There have been multiple setbacks along the way focused on the look of the building.

Because the site was formerly a church, the building was exempt from landmark status in the Armitage-Halsted Historic District.

That meant Walgreens did not have to adhere to architectural guidelines to match the other buildings along Armitage that contain ornamental facades.

The developer also cut down three large trees along Dayton Street that were supposed to be spared, angering nearby residents. Centaur Construction paid about $170,000 in fees and replacement costs after the action, Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) said at the time. 

A contractor cuts down a tree along Dayton Street, which angered neighbors of the project (DNAinfo/Paul Biasco)

Business owners feared the design would change the face of Armitage, but now that the building is nearly complete, some have changed their minds.

"Taking that long to build something had to cost somebody a lot of money," said Brian O'Donnell, owner of Armitage Hardware. "It's nicer looking than I thought it would be. A lot of that, I think, is from the input of the neighborhood."

O'Donnell originally voiced his concern about the plans when Centaur Construction released renderings for the project.

There were a number of community meetings held to discuss plans for the project dating back to 2012, and many of the concerns raised were supposed to be addressed in a signed community agreement between Walgreens and the neighborhood organization.

That agreement has yet to be finalized, even though Walgreens is set to open in less than a month.

"The whole thing got pushed through despite questions about it and now it's built," said Richard Walker, who lives on Dayton Street less than a block from the Walgreens.

Some of the major concerns raised were hours of operations, liquor sales and delivery hours, parking and locations.

The tentative agreement bars liquor sales and limits the store's hours to 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, with extended hours to midnight between Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to Ted Wrobleski, vice president of the Sheffield Neighborhood Association.

Wrobleski said Walgreens could attempt to sell liquor down the road.

A man walks by the new Walgreens on Armitage. (DNAinfo/Paul Biasco)

Sheffield Neighbors is considering four signage options meant to make the building fit in with the historic district.

"I know there are people nearby Walgreens that have been really upset by some trees and building issues and so forth," Wrobleski said. "I don't know how much we will be able to do about any of that, but we will at least get the signage done."

As for parking, which business owners say is already difficult to find on Armitage, Walgreens was not required to provide additional spaces because of its square footage.

The design features 9,900 square feet on the first and second levels, which falls just short of the requirement for off-street parking.

The Walgreens will also feature a basement level, but that level is not counted in the calculation, prompting some objectors to ague Walgreens is skirting the parking need.

"Everyone was really opposed to this Walgreens for a variety of reasons, my primary objection was that the building appears to exceed square footage that triggers the requirement to have parking," Walker said.

The former Baptist Church where the Walgreens now stands. (DNAinfo/Paul Biasco)

The site of the Walgreens after the Baptist Church was demolished. (DNAinfo/Paul Biasco)

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