Planning to mull Walgreens

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The developers of a new commercial subdivision will test the city's "big-box" ordinance tonight with plans for a Walgreens store.

Steamboat Crossing North comes before the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission at 6 p.m. with a plan to build six new retail/restaurant buildings and a 14,820-square-foot Walgreens on 4.98 acres on the northwest corner of U.S. Highway 40 and Pine Grove Road.

Tonight's hearing constitutes a pre-application review, and no vote on the project will be taken.

The applicant is Pedersen Development Company of Boulder on behalf of THF Real Estate of St. Louis. THF also owns the nearby Central Park Plaza shopping center.

The site's northern boundary, which is across the highway from Safeway, borders Fish Creek.

The size of the Walgreens building is greater than the 12,000 square foot threshold for a more stringent planning review. The applicants will be asked to demonstrate their project offers above-average public benefit.

The applicants say they've risen to that level with, among other things, plans for four, deed-restricted employee housing units overlooking Fish Creek on the second floor of one of the buildings.

Assistant planning director Tim McHarg said in a memo to the Planning Commission that he does not think the project as proposed does enough to offset variances from the community development code it is requesting. McHarg pointed out that the design and building materials proposed for Steamboat Crossing North are on par with other commercial projects recently approved without the higher level of review called for by this project.

The site proposed for the new Walgreens and five other buildings originally was approved by the city for commercial development in 2001. However, the new proposal varies substantially from the original.

When Steamboat Crossing North entered the city process in December, plans also called for an unspecified fast-food restaurant. That aspect of the project since has been withdrawn.

Now, it calls for a combined 42,895 square feet of gross floor area. In addition to the Walgreens building, the center would include three single-story retail buildings measuring 9,075, 4,250 and 3,000 square feet. There would be a two-story building with 4,250 square feet of retail on the ground floor and the employee housing units on the second floor. There would be a single-story office building comprising 3,500 square feet.

The center would be accessed from Pine Grove Road.

Walgreens is one of the nation's largest retailers of pharmaceuticals, personal care products and household supplies. Walgreens is a publicly held company that operates 4,681 stores, including 92 in Colorado. Known primarily as a pharmacy chain, Walgreens sells merchandise including milk, disposable diapers, candy and cordless telephones. The Steamboat store would offer a photo lab.

Walgreens has been adding more than 400 new stores a year every year since 2000, according to its corporate Web page.

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