It looks like a park, but it's a CVS

By THERESA BLACKWELL, Times Staff Writer
Published November 24, 2007


With nearly 100 palm trees, plus 60 other trees and thousands of multicolored plants, the new CVS pharmacy at Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard and Keene Road looks more like a botanical garden than a drugstore. Here's how the $2.5-million project came to have so much greenery.

The city

The new CVS is an example of Clearwater's lot-by-lot approach to beautifying Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard, officials say. Codes adopted in 1999 have given the city more leverage to require aesthetics like lush landscaping when property along the road is redeveloped. At the CVS, the developer wanted smaller setbacks and a taller building than the code would normally allow, so the city and developer collaborated on creating planting beds and choosing specific plants and trees, said Scott Kurleman, the city's case planner for the project. "They created a parklike setting," he said. "It's a beautiful buffer."

"It is certainly not the typical landscaping you see at other CVS drugstores," said Mike DeAngelis, a spokesman for CVS, which is a tenant of the building, not its owner. The store's services and convenience draw customers, he said, but curb appeal is a bonus. Anderson Lesniak Limited of Tampa was the landscape consultant, and the builder was Hawkins Construction of Tarpon Springs. "Everybody's happy with it, from the neighbors, to the city, to the Boos Development team, to the tenant," said Andrew Cronin of Boos Development Group of Clearwater, the development project manager.

"I've never seen a developer try to please a neighborhood like they did," said Nita Dowling, who lives on the corner of Florida Avenue and Turner Street. The developer met with neighbors twice and included their preferences in final designs for the landscaping and a wall behind the pharmacy. The new store straddles where Florida Avenue used to intersect with Gulf-to-Bay. Dowling likes that, because it prevents cut-through traffic. "It's great for our community," she said.

To see how Clearwater's landscaping requirements have changed, look across Keene Road at the Walgreens pharmacy built in 1996. A lonely palm rises up beside the pharmacy sign. Monotone bedding plants are mulched in cypress bark and discarded cigarette butts. Walgreens spokeswoman Carol Hively said this week the company plans to upgrade the building's exterior and grounds in the next few months. The timing, she said, is a coincidence.

What they have

Nearly 100 palms from 6 to 20 feet tall, 22 live oaks, nine bald cypresses and 31 Southern red cedars often planted in groupings. Thousands of small trees, shrubs and plants in undulating beds - from sea grape, hibiscus, coco plum, plumbago and croton to iris, grasses, ginger and more. A wide variety of leaf colors and textures and even some blooms. An automatic watering system with a rain sensor. Environmentally friendly pine bark nuggets, not cedar mulch.