Thursday, August 10, 2000

Walgreens eyes Norwood corner

Small businesses oppose plan, but prepare to be booted

By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NORWOOD — National drug retailer Walgreens is eyeing a corner of aging buildings and second-hand shops to build a store over the objections of small business owners who fear being kicked out.

        The retailer already operates a store one block away but covets the corner property at Montgomery Road and Sherman Avenue because it would allow easier access and construction of a drive-through pharmacy.

        The corner is home to a handful of small businesses that would be forced to relocate if Walgreens acquires the property.

        “I will be devastated if this happens,” said Connie Jo Tanner, owner of the Humble Abode used furniture store. “They may be eyesores on the outside, but the people who rent these shops, they've invested their hard-earned money.”

        Cincinnati-based Anchor Associates, the developer hired by Walgreens, informed city officials of the plans and may seek the city's help acquiring the property.

        “There is definitely strong interest from our standpoint,” said Mike Ricke, vice president of development for Anchor Associates. “But we have not purchased property at this point, and I prefer not to go into a lot of detail.”

        Norwood Mayor Joe Hochbein ordered city staff to distribute a questionnaire to residents asking whether they favored redeveloping the property. Fewer than one in five surveys have been returned. More than two-thirds of people responding favor building a Walgreens store.

        The city won't help the developer unless council approves an urban renewal plan and development agreement. That would allow the city to acquire properties through eminent domain if property owners resist the plan, as was the case in a previous attempt to redevelop the corner.

        Eight to 10 privately owned lots need to be acquired to assemble enough property to accommodate a parking lot and 15,000- to 18,000-square-foot store. “We're not viewing this as something the city would subsidize,” development director Richard Dettmer said. “It's an important block. The public has complained about the condition of it, the inability to keep quality businesses there.”

        The small business owners oppose the plan and are collecting signatures from customers and others to bolster their position.

        “We know it's going through anyway,” said Thelma Fritts, owner of Norwood Christian Books and Gifts. “You have a small business like us and you have Walgreens. We know they're going to get it because they have the money.”

        Business owners say the uncertainty caused by Walgreens plans already has harmed the area. Village Thrift Store closed last month. Mrs. Fritts plans to shut her shop for good on Saturday.

        The small-business owners say they are being pinched as Norwood's political leaders seek more lucrative developments, like the upscale Rookwood Commons shopping mall. They particularly blame the aggressive development efforts on Mr. Hochbein, who was indicted last month on charges of theft in office, improper use of city funds.

        If Walgreens opens the new store, it would vacate its other storefront.


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- Walgreens eyes Norwood corner
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