Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille said he will attempt to dissuade Walgreens from opening a store on Mount Vernon Avenue in Del Ray after local residents took to City Hall Saturday to protest early plans for the drugstore.
• See: Walgreens in Del Ray: 'I Don't Think Anything is Going to Stop This'
“Believe me, from my perch I’m going to try to do everything I can to try and encourage Walgreens to look elsewhere,” Eullie said.
The nation’s largest drug retail chain 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.
The sale 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.
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Euille, a Del Ray resident, said city staff is researching the situation.
Walgreens may need to secure a special use permit to open at the site, specifically a reduced 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.
“Please understand this is a private property owned by an individual that has every right to sell to anyone he or she chooses,” Euille said. “But I remember seven or eight years ago and we fought off Walgreens going into the same site. We were successful. We’ll see what happens with this go-around.”
The Executive Board and Land-Use Committee of the Del Ray Citizens Association have started an online petition opposing national retailers like Walgreens coming to Mount Vernon Avenue and encouraging the city to work to “preserve, protect and promote the independent spirit of Del Ray community.”
It has garnered more than 100 signatures as of Sunday morning.
Lee Blunt, a co-owner of Potomac West Interiors and Antique Gallery, told City Council on Saturday that his business supports 30 different antique dealers who each have business licenses and pay taxes in Alexandria.
“We just found out recently that we are being displaced,” Blunt said. “We were actually looking for new space and we would like to stay here in the city. Now retail space here in the city is not exactly affordable. Our business, when we move, we’re probably going to be moving out of the city.”
Euille directed Blunt to members of Alexandria Economic Development Partnership to assist in his search for commercial space.
“We want to keep you here in the city and we want to keep you in Del Ray,” Euille said.
How do you feel about Walgreens potentially opening on Mount Vernon Avenue? Share your thoughts in the comments.