Developers of a new Walgreens proposed for the old American Legion Hall on Magazine Street presented three renovation designs concepts to a crowd of Uptown residents Tuesday evening, saying that they are moving away from the more modern storefront design that initially bothered some neighbors.
“What we showed before was a very modern design, and a lot of people didn’t like it,” said architect Mac Ball.
As they examined the architecture along the street, they found glass storefronts and overhanging balconies to be common architectural features.The two newer designs for the property both have balconies, though the third design exchanges some of the glass windows for more brickwork in its columns and on its ends.
“This is a direction,” developer Louis Stirling said of the three designs, each moving away from that initial modern concept. “My approach has always been that we have to build something we’ll all be proud of. What we want to end up with is good design.”
Stirling’s intent, said company vice president Peter Aamodt, is to build a structure that will outlast Walgreens’ 25-year lease.
“We’re not designing this specifically for Walgreens,” Aamodt said. “We’re designing this for Magazine Street for the future. It has to be a retail building that’ll function and stand the test of time.”
The new designs drew no strong comments from the audience of about 70 people. No one spoke strongly for or against any one of the designs, and were largely more interested in some of the practical considerations of living next to a drug store, such as the traffic patterns surrounding the drive-through window and the unloading area in the parking lot.
The developers are looking into ways to use the building’s parking lot to help ease congestion in the neighborhood without absorbing so much of it that parking becomes difficult for Walgreens customers, Aamodt said. Stocking the store will not require much truck traffic, Stirling added, saying that Walgreens will devise its own traffic patterns for delivery trucks.
The developers said they have asked each of the surrounding neighborhood organizations to give them a list of specific operating concerns that they can then pass on to Walgreens.
After the meeting, some in attendance said the design was not their primary concern. Sherry Alexander was frustrated by an announcement from Councilwoman Susan Guidry that plans to make nearby Joseph and Octavia streets one-way from Magazine to Tchoupitoulas had been abandoned because of opposition from residents. Her house is one of the few on her block with a driveway, but most of her neighbors are unable to park near their homes because of the congestion — a problem she said the city seems inattentive to.
“They’re not paying enough attention to the traffic,” Alexander said.
Tom Lowenberg, owner of Octavia Books, said he remains disappointed that Stirling was unable to find an independent, local business better suited to the unique feel on the block. The city ought to re-examine its own development regulations to ensure local businesses have every advantage, Lowenberg said.
“Independent businesses are the ones that drive the economy,” Lowenberg said. “Maybe we ought to reconsider that, and not just be saying, ‘Oh, there’s nothing we can do.'”
To read our live coverage of Tuesday night’s meeting, click “Replay” in the box below.