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City works with Walgreens on plans for new location

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

City staff is working with Walgreens to develop a plan for the company's new store that will complement Civic Park. The new store, proposed to go at the corner of National and St. Louis, will be a gateway into the park, city officials have said, and it should meet design requirements that make it fit with the park's overall plan.

Benjamin Alexander, senior planner for the city and coordinator of the Civic Park project, said the Walgreens proposal will come before the Planning and Zoning Commission again Nov. 5, after being tabled at the Oct. 8 meeting. The proposal will then go to City Council by Nov. 9, Alexander said.

"We've been doing some designs with the developer with regard to signage. We are developing specific directions we are giving to Walgreens," Alexander said.

The developers for Walgreens were to meet with the Civic Park Advisory Committee Oct. 21 to talk about the plans for the new store.

The expedited schedule for council's hearing the case is to meet Walgreens' schedule for developing the store, Alexander said.

"I'm confident we can work this out with Walgreens, but we have to keep in mind that this project will set the tone for the future development in Civic Park," Alexander said.

"The developer only has a short window of opportunity with the current property owners," said Earl Newman, office manager for design firm George Butler Associates' Springfield office.

The two parcels involved in the site, which comprise the entire block between St. Louis Street and Trafficway, are owned by Burks Investment Corporation and Viles Oil Company.

The buildings on the site, which house auto sales and service businesses, as well as storage, would be demolished for the Walgreens.

"The concern that I think everyone has for the vision of Civic Park is to what extent the new development can blend in with the core character of the Park Central District," Newman said

The Blackstone Group, a St. Louis developer, which built two Walgreens stores already in Springfield, has plans for two other new Walgreens sites in addition to the St. Louis-and-National development.

LMN Architects continues to work on a master plan for the park, which is set to be complete in January, Alexander said.

"At that point, we'll have a detailed view of phase I and what is coming up with regard to that," Alexander said.

The Civic Park Advisory Committee has also recommended a streetscape project along Boonville and Water Streets.

"The next steps in the streetscape project is to refine the elements and turn it into a brochure so that people can be made aware of what we're planning. We'll also be talking with property owners in the project area to help them understand what it might mean to them," Alexander said.

Funding for the streetscape will come from the hotel-motel tax increase and possibly from federal money or the city's quarter-cent capital improvement funds.

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