by Jean Scherwenka

In case you hadn’t noticed, the vacant old Sentry and Ben Franklin stores on Oakland Avenue just north of Locust are finally coming down. Compared to the ghost town scene that lively businesses across the street have looked at for a while, empty space will be eye candy. But according to plans, the space won’t be empty for long.

A 14,700 square foot, one-story Walgreens Drug Store is going up on what is now the old Sentry parking lot. The vacant site of the old Sentry store will provide 50 plus parking spaces for shoppers at the new Walgreens when it moves from its present 10,000 square foot location just south of Locust into its new digs.

The property’s owner Ted Balistreri, Jr., the Oakland Avenue BID, and city officials have worked with Walgreens, the Albion Group Architects, and Redmond Company developers to design a building that differs from Walgreens preferred signature style that we’re accustomed to seeing. Look for the new store, while still recognizable as a Walgreens, to sport a somewhat different look, more fitting for the unique and pedestrian friendly business area of Oakland Avenue. If weather cooperates, we can watch for the opening in spring of 2007.

Shoppers at the new store can park bikes in racks near the entrances. Vehicles will enter from Oakland Avenue on the south side of the store either to park in the lot or to drive through to the prescriptions window at the back of the store. The driveway continues to the exit on Oakland Ave from the north side of the store. A row of trees alongside that exit driveway will provide a green screen and sound buffer for tenants in the adjacent apartment building.

In a 30-foot wide space between the south end of the new parking lot and Cousins’ existing lot, pedestrians will enjoy a landscaped area with benches. More benches will be built into the face of the new store and also into a stone fence separating the sidewalk from the parking lot.

Property-owner Balistreri does not want to tear down the old Walgreens building. While area residents would probably welcome a neighborhood food store in that space, no plans are in place at this time.

Riverwest Currents online edition – December, 2006