Walgreens plans Kenwood store
Walgreens is eyeing a prospective site for another new store in Duluth's Kenwood neighborhood. The national retailer has focused its attention on the southwest corner of Arrowhead Road and Kenwood Drive. But if the project is to work, the company...
Walgreens is eyeing a prospective site for another new store in Duluth's Kenwood neighborhood.
The national retailer has focused its attention on the southwest corner of Arrowhead Road and Kenwood Drive. But if the project is to work, the company will need the city to vacate undeveloped alleyways that run through the property. The Duluth City Council is scheduled to take up the matter Thursday, and already members are being lobbied hard by residents concerned about the impact a high-volume, 24-hour store could have on their neighborhood.
A deeply divided Duluth Planning Commission recommended approval of the vacation request June 10, by a 5-4 vote. Supporters included Mike Akervik, Henry Banks, Joan Barrett, Ruth Ann Eaton and Mindy Granley. Commissioners voting in the minority were Mindy Appold, Joan Morrison, John Vigen and Roger Wedin.
"Several neighbors spoke passionately about their concern for the neighborhood," said Wedin, noting that those voices swayed his vote.
"The challenging issue is that we have residential bumping up against commercial development," he said.
Barbara Brooks has lived at 1530 W. Arrowhead Rd., since 1964, and fears Walgreens' arrival would irreparably alter the character of her neighborhood.
"If Walgreens goes in there, I'm afraid it will be devastating to our property values," she said.
Brooks said she and fellow neighborhood residents already struggle with congestion, speeding vehicles and snow removal issues associated with Arrowhead Road's heavy traffic load.
"It's bad enough now," she said, predicting that Walgreens' presence will only exacerbate existing problems.
Chuck Froseth, a senior planner for the city of Duluth, said the property already is properly zoned C1-Commercial, meaning that a Walgreens store would be a permitted use.
As for vacating the alleys, Froseth sees little issue there either, because he said the alleys have never been built and probably never will be. The Planning Commission has recommended maintaining a requirement for utility easements through the property, even if the alleyway plans are scrapped.
Brooks pointed out that when the property at the corner of Arrowhead and Kenwood was rezoned about four years ago, it was to accommodate plans for a new branch office of the Duluth Teachers Credit Union. But the credit union now is looking at selling the property to a developer who is working with Walgreens.
"A 24-hour store like Walgreens could have a bigger impact on the neighborhood than a credit union," Wedin said. "The lesson to be learned with zoning is that you're not always guaranteed the project that's being promoted."
Steve Preston, owner of Falk's Pharmacies, said the prospect of Walgreens coming to Kenwood has him concerned in many ways, including on the commercial level.
"If they come in, they will bury us," he predicted, anticipating that head-to-head competition with a massive corporation could force the closure of his locally owned pharmacy at 1352 W. Arrowhead Road.
"The city's business is not to keep me in business," Preston said. "But if we get another 500 to 700 cars going through here each day, it's going to kill the residential neighborhood."
Froseth said that even if the requested alley easements are granted, the city still will require extensive traffic flow analyses before it can sign off on any access plan for the site.