Walgreens, the largest drug retail chain in the United States, is looking to set up shop at the busy corner of Mount Vernon and East Monroe avenues.
The 112-year-old company has a contract to purchase the entire retail strip at 1509-1517 Mount Vernon Ave. Walgreens has hired a firm to perform $800,000 worth of renovations to the interior of the shopping center.
Walgreens could displace five businesses at the retail strip—Norge Laundry and Dry Cleaning, J&M Electronics, Universal Market, Not Too Shabby Antiques and Potomac West Interiors and Antique Gallery.
Alexandria’s Department of Planning and Zoning is currently examining permit issues related to the sale.
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“I don’t think anything is going to stop this from happening,” Lauren Rissmiller of Potomac West Interiors told Patch. “We love our landlord. He’s been great to us. I think he’s just ready to stop being a landlord.”
Philip Hochberg of Potomac, Md., is the owner of the shopping center. Rissmiller said Hochberg inherited the property years ago. The building and land were recently valued by the city at a combined $3.1 million.
City staff is researching the situation to see if there is basis for requiring Walgreens to secure a special use permit to open at the site, specifically a parking requirement to operate the business. The SUP process would subject Walgreens to plenty of scrutiny, including public hearings in front of Planning Commission and City Council.
However, Walgreens could potentially move in by right because of a 2005 zoning change that reduced parking requirements to promote retail business on Mount Vernon Avenue.
Several Del Ray residents told Patch they planned to address the issue—and their displeasure with a national chain moving onto Mount Vernon Avenue—at Saturday’s open hearing before council at City Hall.
“In my view, the loss of the two antiques stores in particular would be a terrible blow for Del Ray,” Del Ray Citizens Association President Bill Hendrickson wrote on the group’s website. “They are lovely stores, and bring a lot of customers to the Avenue. It is unclear whether there are any possible alternate locations for the stores within Del Ray.”
Hendrickson also wrote that the loss of the Laundromat would be a blow the area’s apartment-dwellers.
Rissmiller said Potomac West Interiors is required four months notice if it is asked to vacate. She said there has been no official notice as of Friday.
“It’s not like we’re leaving in the next couple weeks,” Rissmiller said. “In a perfect world, we would stay in Del Ray. We’ve been here 14 years in July. We would love space on the Avenue. We have a need for 10,000 square feet. If someone knows of a space, let us know.”
Last year, a petition to construct a new Walgreens in Downers Grove, Ill.—just 30 miles from the company’s headquarters in Deerfield, Ill.—was withdrawn after citizens expressed overwhelming disapproval of the project. Walgreens cited traffic concerns as the reason it abandoned the project.
The Downers Grove Citizen Group of 63rd and Woodward received an award from the Citizen Advocacy Center in January recognizing local community activists for organizing and advocating on a self-identified issue of public concern.
• See: Downers Grove Citizen Group Recognized for Walgreens Opposition (Downers Grove Patch)
That specific Walgreens project was more intensive than the situation on Mount Vernon Avenue. The Downers Grove plan included demolition and a request for a zoning change from residential to commercial use.
Patch will be following this issue as it develops.
How do you feel about Walgreens potentially opening on Mount Vernon Avenue? Tell us in the comments.