The neighborhood association prefers Gandy Square and its trees to "another big box" and will oppose a Walgreens.
By JOHN BALZ
Published May 16, 2003
A group of Ballast Point residents met Monday night to talk about ways to fight the expansion plans of pharmacy giant Walgreen Co.
About 35 people, mostly members of the Ballast Point Neighborhood Association, agreed to oppose the current site plan for a new drugstore and bank planned for Gandy Square at 3010 W Gandy Blvd.
The site is home to nine businesses, including a pizza parlor, a Chinese restaurant, a hair salon and a fitness center for women.
Walgreen Co. wants to enlarge the site by taking over an alley and buying parts of two residential properties. The City Council was scheduled to vote on the alley issue Thursday. A proposed rezoning of the new, larger site is set to go to the council June 12.
Walgreen Co. will also ask the council to approve drive-through windows for the pharmacy and the bank.
At this point, residents don't know whether Walgreen, which grossed $28.7-billion in sales last year, would want to build the store if the council denies the requests.
A representative for Hupp Realty, which is developing the property, has met with association president Gene Wells but did not attend Monday's meeting. The owner of Gandy Square lives in Illinois.
At the meeting, former association president Melanie Higgins, a self-proclaimed "tree-hugger," said there were five trees on the site that should be saved.
Jerry Miller, an association board member, said that a Walgreens drugstore might be inevitable. But he argued that the new building "does not have to be another big box." He suggested that the company lower the height of its building, include more landscaping and reduce the amount of asphalt.
Others in the audience concurred.
Chris DiNeno, co-owner of Gumby's Pizza & Grinders, has collected 1,200 signatures on a petition to save the shopping center. He argued the area doesn't need another pharmacy. Four sit within a half-mile. "It's not about adding services to the community that we aren't already enjoying," he said.
In a telephone interview, John Grandoff, attorney for Hupp Realty, said the new Walgreens is driven by market demand and would bring lower prices to the neighborhood.
He said some of the trees would be saved. For those that are removed, the developer will contribute money to a city fund for trees.
Reducing the height of the building is unlikely, Grandoff said, but architects are working on a new site plan, which should be available next week.
The June 12 rezoning meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 315 E Kennedy Blvd.