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Magazine St. Walgreens Plans Revealed
After taking body blows for their initial plans, Walgreens introduced new design concepts for their Magazine St. store last night.
UPTOWN - While Magazine Street has gained a reputation as a shopping destination for both locals and tourists, not everyone is thrilled about the area’s newest retailer. Walgreens announced plans to take over the old American Legion Hall at 5518 Magazine Street earlier this year. Residents immediately pushed back, unhappy with the idea of a big corporate chain just down the block from...Whole Foods.
In any case, Walgreens has no plans to retreat, but they did concede defeat in a battle over the store’s modern design, and last night a meeting was held in the currently vacant building to present new drawings of a facade that the retailer hopes will better blend in with the surroundings.
At the well-attended public forum on Tuesday night, neighborhood residents trickled in past easels bearing renderings of possible facades for the new store provided by Waggonner & Ball, the local architectural firm in charge of the Walgreen’s project.
Peter Aamodt, vice president of development for Stirling Properties, which owns the building, opened the meeting by reiterating the basic facts: once the building is completed, Walgreens will relocate the current store on Tchoupitoulas to Magazine Street. Because of the existing zoning for the site, Stirling Properties did not need to seek any variances or provisos as was the case for the nearby Whole Foods and Romney Pilates. While they are free to build and operate the store as they see fit, Aamadt stressed that Walgreen’s wanted to solicit any questions or concerns ahead of its construction and opening in an effort to be sensitive to locals’ concerns.
Architect Mac Ball took over to explain the thought process that had gone into the tweaks of his original design, which had received some negative feedback from both residents and the development team.
“This block of Magazine Street is very diverse in its architecture, and has a lot of styles,” he said, while clicking through a few slides of other buildings on the block like the ones that house St. Joe’s bar, Slice pizzeria, and Azby’s clothing store.
While the new Walgreens will have a modern look, he feels it will not be completely out of place on a block with so many other unique looking buildings. Ball was inspired by the awnings and overhangs of nearby businesses and incorporated a cantilevered canopy into both of the new design options in an attempt to break up the tall facade.
During a question and answer period, though, residents seemed less concerned with aesthetics as they did with the nuts and bolts of the site, mainly the parking lot and traffic up and down Octavia and Joseph streets. Aamodt noted that the existing parking lot would mean the impact of construction should be minimal for both residents and Magazine Street traffic. Ultimately he foresees the parking lot of 40-odd spaces as being shared by Walgreen’s shoppers during the day and residents at night. Signage and outdoor lighting will be kept to a minimum.
City Councilwoman Susan Guidry, of District A, was in attendance and offered the results of a traffic study undertaken by the Public Works Department. An increase in traffic between Jefferson Avenue and Henry Clay Avenue is not expected to reach “unacceptable levels.” In addition the department recommended that the block of Joseph between Magazine and Camp should be changed to a one way heading north to alleviate congestion, and, pending final approval, this will be the case.
Aamodt said the design should be finalized within the next couple of months and that construction should begin in the fall.
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