Sep 292011

A rendering of the new design for the Walgreens on Magazine Street. (photo by Sabree Hill,

With some encouragement from City Hall, the developers of the Walgreens store planned for Magazine Street have settled on a historic-style design intended to blend with the existing streetscape, abandoning a more modern look they had previously considered.

When Stirling Properties last met with the neighborhoods surrounding the old American Legion hall in the 5500 block of Magazine, they offered three options, each of which blended a contemporary look similar to Whole Foods with varying historic features. Feedback from the neighbors led to no clear consensus in favor of any of the designs, said Stirling vice president Peter Aamodt, so the developers and Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office went back to the drawing board with a new architect, John Williams.

Peter Aamodt of Stirling Properties (standing, left) and architect John Williams describe the new Walgreens design at a town-hall meeting Wednesday evening. (Sabree Hill,

The end result, Aamodt told a group of neighbors Wednesday evening, is an Italianate, turn-of-the-century style building that “fits more contextually with Magazine Street.”

“It’s a drastic change from the way we were going, and we hope it’s widely accepted,” Aamodt said.

The natural brick facade will still have large windows to give the interior a transparent feeling, and much of the interior structure will be exposed, Williams said. The entire building was conceived to fit in with Magazine Street.

“This isn’t the first design we came up with. It’s the one we settled on,” Williams said. “Magazine Street is a very special place in the world, because of the types of architecture. I know you’ve just experienced some other types of architecture.”

The small audience of 20 or so people inside the American Legion building had no complaint with the new design — one audience member said it “looks super” — and concentrated their questions on the operational aspects of the Walgreens.

  • How will the signage look? “Minimal,” Williams replied. “This is going to be very subdued. You’re not going to have this big neon Walgreens sign.”
  • How will the parking work? Walgreens plans to use some of the lot to help lessen the parking woes in the neighborhood, but it is still working out the logistics, such as whether to charge other businesses for the use of its spaces. “The parking that’s shown here exceeds Walgreens’ need for a store of this side,” he said.
  • Will the pharmacy make Magazine Street a target for armed robbers? No, Aamodt said. “People using this Walgreens will be people from the neighborhood,” he said. “There’s so much security built into the building that it’s not worth it.”

The building will be owned by a group of local investors assembled by Stirling, and they hope to close the sale with the American Legion in October, Stirling said. Walgreens plans to sign a 25-year lease, and hopes to open in July.

  • Jean-Paul Villere

    Way mod. Cheers to Walgreens –

  • Rachel

    Glad they’ve found a design that satisfies those in the area and will look good on Magazine street. When I went to the first meeting several months ago a woman quite literally asked why on earth the architects hadn’t designed something that “looked like a shotgun house.” It cannot be easy to satisfy those with such expectations…

  • Tom

    Anyone know how long this love of faux historic will last? New Orleans wasn’t afraid of modernity in the 20th century — why so scared now?

    • brian knighten

      Exactly. The design that they originally presented was beautiful and mirrored what is there now with Whole Foods. Although I absolutely oppose the idea of a Walgreens at this location (its just a bad fit and a dumb business move), at least give us something pretty to look at. How did one person’s idea for “historic” hijack the whole process?

      Also, any word on the drive-thru?

      • Jeep Guy

        There is a drive-thru at the rear of the building.

    • bb

      Looks like it belongs on the Epcot Center boardwalk.

      • David

        Exactly! Why do New Orleanians think the only architecture we can have here must be historic? We are in 2011. Not 1911. We should be building things that in 100 years will say “this was built in 2011” not “hmm this building looks like it was an attempt to build something 100 years before its time but the quality of construction between the two is so obvious that it is a failed attempt…” Just because it is designed to “blend in” it won’t fool anyone into thinking it isn’t a new building. Why do we want something to just “blend in” anyways? I think the designs they originally submitted were smart and I was very impressed with Walgreens for taking that initiative. Shame on you, uptown neighbors.

        • Elizabeth

          Wrong. Good architecture is timeless. I don’t believe in architecture reflects the zeitgeist…the new design is much better for the surrounding neighborhood.

          • Derek

            Dont confuse Uptown New Orleans with New Orleans in general. Two different psyches!

    • Jean-Paul Villere

      The 20th century minimized or ended the modern everywhere, including New Orleans, with the advent of historic preservation in the late ’70s. And when you take a city like New Orleans that dates back centuries, then you’re dealing with a whole different level of inventory unlike say Houston that was a pretty unremarkable cowtown til post WWII.

    • Darrell

      Probably until people remember that the “unique character” of New Orleans is not in its buildings.

      • JEFFREY

        hmmmm……Certainly it defines who we are….and so do the suburbs!

        • Darrell

          It defines the city’s image, but I didn’t move here because of the buildings, I moved here because of the people. And I would contend that there’s nothing wrong with New Orleans existing in the 21st century even as it preserves its legacy.

  • Em

    That sign does NOT look minimal. It is awful.

    Why is this getting pushed through? These powerful chain stores (they can out negotiate any small store because they buy national volume) can put every mon and pop business out of business. I plan to start using that little drugstore at Nashville and boycott this Walgreen’s.

    And when they don’t want a location, they abandon it. Was that a Walgreen’s at Earhart and Carrollton that is still boarded up and disgusting from Kartina damage in 2005?

    They say the parking lot is big enough for their needs but what kind of 18wheeler delivery trucks are they counting on. We just went through that arguement with Whole Foods.

    • Are you referring to that big T-shaped sign? That’s for the children’s store next door. it’s already there.

      Also, about chains abandoning, you should consider it a good thing (post-flood being an exception). Borders put in a ton of money to restoring that funeral home. Now we have a restored building and no big chain store. Win-win! Similarly, this will be way more attractive than the existing building so let’s all hope Walgreens shuts down and leaves us with a nice building for a local biz to occupy in the future.

      • Justin

        Good answer, Stan!

  • Chris

    I was thrilled by the original design and not so much by this one. Sure it will blend in, but it will become another unremarkable faux historic building which New Orleans is now almost famous for.

    Historic preservation and restoration of historic buildings is absolutely what we in NOLA should be striving for, but the fact is that this building was a bland, suburnistic, piece of crap from the 1970s.

    Why couldn’t Stirling have been allowed to do something beautiful and creative for once and blend some modernity in with history?

    I love the modern glass facade of Whole Foods’ historic Arabella location.

    But, just another sad faux historic building that will blend in and be forgotten.

  • I’m glad we’ll have a useful store in walking distance that doesn’t look like either homeless people live in it, or with $5k princess dresses in the window. I’m so sick of people that move here to pretend they live in a third world country. Vive la local middle class.

    • Rachel

      Bravo to that. I’m glad it’s coming, too. I think having a Walgreens there will be convenient and I’m sure I’ll stop in all the time. It’s a great compliment to the Whole Foods given that WF has no pharmacy and carries little in the way of cleaning supplies, trash bags, etc. If Walgreens was going to take over a more attractive building and somehow ruin it I’d feel differently, but that building is totally ugly and essentially unused. And that big parking lot that no one is allowed to park in is a huge waste.

  • bb

    Utilitarian function does not require a low-brow design solution.

  • spicewood

    I’ll welcome the Walgreens too. I liked the modern design previously proposed. This new-old design is fine — better than the Legion Hall and better than the typical Walgreens. Props to Walgreens for working on it. But one more tweak? The canopy over the door looks like something that would have been retrofit to an old building in the 1960’s and complained about for generations as a desecration. Can anyone suggest a better canopy design?

  • RG

    True fact: New Orleans is surrounded by Historic Architecture. It makes us unique and beautiful. But, it is important to remember that as New Orleans expanded so did its architecture. As styles were introduced, New Orleans wasn’t afraid to build it. So, that same principle should apply to today’s buildings.

    Yes, New Orleans buildings evolved. This is clearly evident from the French Quarter to Lakeview. New Orleans’ buildings adapted to architectural styles as they became popular or “in-style”. A prime example is the Creole cottage. Creole cottages were embellished with Victorian brackets and frilly details that were never originally a part of that structure. But, that’s WHAT makes NEW ORLEANS special. Could you imagine these buildings any other way? Really, take a moment and step back and “read” a building. I bet that building possibly evolved and shows when it was built and/or evolved.

    So we should continue our evolution today. I truly believe that a structure being built should be a representation of what was the current architectural style or “in fashion”. Let’s not play DisneyWorld in New Orleans with our treasure of architecture. I say: “Live and let build” (Of course within zoning boundaries, etc).

    It would have been interesting in 20 years to see the architectural difference of the late 19th Century Victorians and Italianate structures along Magazine Street submerged against a newer modern structure for the Walgreens building. It only would have provided more history in New Orleans story. And our buildings always tell a story.

  • Jeep Guy

    This building turned out fantastic! Even the interior was designed to have a bit of a New Orleans flair.