Steamboat Springs More than five years after it first appeared on the horizon, Walgreens, the publicly traded chain of pharmaceutical and general merchandise stores, is making another bid to come to U.S. Highway 40 and Pine Grove Road.
Co-developer Brian Olson confirmed this week that he and partner Rod Forrester would like to break ground in March and see the store open by October. Forrester is the principal in the multiphased Trappeurs Crossing luxury condominiums.
A different development team, acting on behalf of THF Real Estate, of St. Louis, went through lengthy development permit processes with the city in April 2005 and again in December that year.
Olson and Forrester were most recently active on the same piece of undeveloped commercial property in early 2009, when their proposed City South development would have included a large office building on the corner lot now being considered for Walgreens as well as a new main post office.
Olson said Wednesday that he was not free to comment on the status of the post office project.
City South included tentative plans for a retail building for a drive-through window like Walgreens stores have, but Olson never confirmed the chain was the intended tenant. However, the new store would be called Walgreens at City South.
The new proposal has just entered the city planning process with a technical advisory review, and no public hearings have been set, though Senior City Planner Bob Keenan said he was aware the developers were hoping to gain their approvals before 2011.
“TAC (technical) review can take a long time, but we’re trying to accommodate them,” Keenan said.
Olson and Forrester would own the building and enter into a long-term lease with Walgreens.
2nd time around
The Walgreens network of 7,500 stores has prospered during the struggling economy; sales increased 7.4 percent in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year, contributing to a record $16.9 billion in receipts. Walgreens recently repurchases $2 billion in stock shares.
Walgreens filled a record 778 million prescriptions in fiscal year 2010, up 7.5 percent from the previous year. Prescription sales, which accounted for 65.9 percent of sales in the quarter, climbed 6.5 percent. The company opened 291 net new drugstores during the year.
The chain’s first foray into the city planning process began in April 2005; Steamboat Crossing North paused and then resumed the city process in December 2005 with upgraded exterior building materials. That previous Walgreens building was proposed to be 14,820 square feet — above the threshold that put it under the city’s “big box” ordinance and required the developers to offer additional public benefit to gain approval. They proposed to build 15 or 16 affordable
condominiums among 108 small condos on a nearby site south of Staples.
The 2011 version of Walgreens would be 16,450 square feet with a second-story mezzanine for storage of inventory.
The plan has retained two elements of City South: a traffic roundabout between the drug store and Staples on Pine Grove Road and a mass-transit stop. Olson said he hopes to negotiate the public benefit his development would be required to provide in the approval process.
The plans for the Walgreens reflect awareness that the developers know they have to exceed standard corporate architecture; it includes a corner entrance covered with heavy timber framing and a shed roof. Exterior materials include brick veneer, cement board siding and fieldstone.
However, Keenan said the developers might have a challenge meeting the design guideline for the U.S. Highway 40 corridor.
“They definitely made some efforts to address the guidelines, but I’m not sure how it matches the requirements,” Keenan said. “It’s set back from the highway, and we’d like it to be closer. The loading dock is on Highway 40, and we’d prefer to see the storefront there.”
Olson said he has little room to maneuver in terms of adjusting the store plans to satisfy the city. In order to be confident that he and Forrester could land a Walgreens, he said, they had to go through the corporate planning process. Walgreens officials already have made concessions to Steamboat planning guidelines, and now that they approved an upgraded building, they won’t reconsider, he added.
Olson said he thinks the store would provide goods and services that would be beneficial to the community and he’s hopeful that in a climate of little development, the city will look favorably on his proposal. He said he intends to use a local general contractor.