Council asks: Why Walgreens?

Published March 8, 2006 9:54 pm
Battle brewing: Many find developers' claim that it is the best choice for the Thomas Fox land parcel unconvincing
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HOLLADAY - It's no secret in this tightknit east-side community that battle lines have been drawn to keep a Walgreens drugstore out of the Village Center redevelopment area.

Petitions have circulated at Holladay businesses for more than two weeks, gathering 5,500 signatures so far.

At a Planning Commission meeting earlier this week, members asked Tom Hulbert and Brett Fox - the development team making up Thomas Fox Properties - the obvious questions:

Why a Walgreens on Murray-Holladay Road? And why near three other pharmacies?

"Explain to us why this location is better than the old Dee's location [at 4800 S. Highland Drive]," said commissioner Brad Scott. "We'd give you a parade if you opened up down there."

Scott referred to a corner Holladay property outside the Village Center currently owned by Walgreens.

"They've elected not to build there," Hulbert said. "They do extensive market research and determined that this was the best spot."

Asked commission member Lynda Shields: "Why Walgreens? Why not develop something exciting to the citizens of Holladay?"

If the national chain does build on the Thomas Fox parcel, it would make four pharmacies within a two-block area at the heart of a mixed-use development the city hopes will become its crown jewel.

Design guidelines for the Village Center project, set forth in this young city's master plan, specify a quaint, pedestrian-friendly gathering place, where people can find a unique shopping and dining experience not available elsewhere.

"We tried to do that for 2 1/2 years," Fox said. "We spent a lot of money, hired and fired architects, worked with engineers and did stacks of site plans."

Fox and Hulbert own 1.5 acres just west of the city-owned parcel where the hulking Video Vern's once stood. Beat out by the city on the purchase of that parcel, the two also got stung when the City Council selected Leucadia/Cowboy Partners as lead developer on the multi-phased Village project instead of themselves.

"To have this chance to redevelop Holladay is an exciting thing to a lot of residents here," Shields told Hulbert and Fox. "They don't want a Walgreens, Wal-Mart or Home Depot on one of the most exciting pieces of property in the village. You could make the difference."

"We felt that way," Hulbert replied. "Originally we weren't going to build a Walgreens, but that opportunity has come and gone."

The two now believe that a 15,000-square-foot Walgreens is the best option left for their single parcel.

"We could put several tenants in there on a speculative basis, but Walgreens is a sure thing," Fox said. "They're ready to sign up."

Their current plan does not comply with the Village Center's design guidelines. If tweaked to become more walkable, to have a more historic feel and to look considerably less like the standard Walgreens, the project could be ready for a public hearing before the Planning Commission.

At this time, however, no date has been set, pending further staff review and future plan submittals from Thomas Fox.


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