The long-planned, controversial Walgreens store in Hillcrest is well under construction at 301 University Avenue. The former vacant structure, last used for medical offices, was on the site located directly across University from Urban Mo's Bar & Grill.
Many Hillcrest residents had opposed the Walgreens project, instead preferring more parking or a range of stores. Others argued the existing building should have received historic status.
Luke Terpstra, chair of the Hillcrest Town Council, said that “HTC has not heard from Walgreens. The HTC is still committed to the interim height ordinance, so we are pleased that their design is in keeping with that scope. Also, the design is looking good and should, I think, fit in well with the Hillcrest community.”
As for local involvement, Terpstra replied, “It is difficult to tell if they are going to be good neighbors until they move in, but we are hoping for a good relationship. When they get here,” he said, “I do plan to go and meet the local managers and staff and welcome them to Hillcrest.”
Benjamin Nicholls, executive director of Hillcrest Business Association, has a wait-and-see attitude: “In the past I have lamented that this property posed a great infill development opportunity for the neighborhood that won't happen now. Hillcrest already has a high number of businesses of this type, and I believe a more progressive mixed-use building with a variety of tenants would have been more beneficial than this single use.”
Competing stores are a Rite Aid at 535 Robinson Avenue, and a CVS Pharmacy at 313 E. Washington Avenue. Walgreens already has a small pharmacy located at 640 University Avenue. The new store will be larger, like the Walgreens at 3222 University Avenue in North Park.
In a May 7 statement, San Diego City Council president Todd Gloria said, “The market will determine the appropriate balance of pharmacies...and competition can ensure a better customer and neighborhood experience.” He said he is “thankful Walgreens listened to concerns from me and other neighbors by designing a building that better fits the character of the neighborhood, and further activates University Avenue with a street-facing entrance….”
Nicholls said, “I hope that Walgreens is a good neighbor through maintaining their part of the neighborhood with security, cleaning, and creating an inviting storefront that faces University. Many stores of this nature abandon their street-fronting doorways, don't sweep their sidewalks, and through poor management become attractions for homeless people.” Added Nicholls, “We support any new business that opens in Hillcrest.”
A request for comment from media relations at Walgreens corporate offices received no immediate reply.