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Posted: April 4, 2010 12:01 a.m.

New Walgreens one step closer to Covington

By Brittany Thomas /

The City of Covington is one step closer to getting its first Walgreens, after the former Shell station on the corner of Elm St. and U.S. Highway 278 had all of its gasoline storage tanks removed this week.

Five several-thousand-gallon tanks were excavated by GoodEarth Environmental this week. The Doraville-based environmental company removed the tanks, cleaned them and took them to the landfill, said Project Manager Ben Lowe.

GoodEarth is an environmental subcontractor for Woodstock-based Sierra Piedmont. Lowe said his company does a lot of work with Walgreens which often buys corner lots; many of which were previously gas stations.

As of now, the 0.39-acre lot is still owned by Petroleum Realty II; the company that hired Sierra Piedmont.

In September, representatives working on behalf of Walgreens attended a Covington Board of Zoning Appeals and Adjustments meeting, where they asked for some ordinance exemptions. The exemptions were granted, and Mike Ricke, executive vice president of Anchor

Properties, said Walgreens will be coming to Covington. Anchor is the real estate company that negotiates for Walgreens.

However, a new Walgreens will require 1.8 acres of land, which would necessitate the company purchasing a significant portion of next-door Covington Ford, the 2.83 acre car dealership owned by Wendell Crowe.

In November, Crowe said he has not agreed to sell any land to Walgreens and no one from the company proper had contacted him recently.

Crowe said he had talked to representatives from Anchor Properties in the past, but he said there was no guarantee that he would sell his land. He said he has been looking for another place in Covington to relocate his dealership because the current building is old. However, he said he may not even be able to afford a move at this time given the economy, and any move would take at least a year and a half, in order to construct a new building and relocate all of the cars.

In an e-mail from Ricke, received shortly after the Covington Ford story appeared in The Covington News, he said the company had everything it needed to move forward with the Walgreens project.

"We have all the property under contract and will be proceeding with the project. We are presently working on site plans. I do not have a timetable at this point," he said.

Follow-up e-mails to Ricke in January, February and March all elicited the same response: the project is moving forward.

This week’s excavation of the gasoline storage tanks marks the first visible signs of progress.

Lowe said GoodEarth will remove all of the gasoline lines and other infrastructure, take samples to make sure the area is uncontaminated and then fill in all of the holes and grade the site. He expects to be competed by the end of next week. The tearing down of the old convenience store will be handled by another company.

Crowe could not be reached for comment on Friday.

At the September meeting, zoning board member Lee Aldridge said removing the prominent blight that is the old Shell station was a positive factor.

"I appreciate the time and energy they put into this design and the fact they were willing to remove the blight, and incorporating both properties is also good," she said at the time.

Ricke has given no timetable for construction on the Walgreens. He said Walgreens is coming to Covington because it has no presence in the city and the company felt the market was underserved. The nearest Walgreens is at the intersection of Salem and Brown Bridge roads.

"It’s (the Elm St. and U.S. 278 intersection) a nice site and a good location. We think we’ll have good access being on 278," Ricke said in September.

Some residents have commented that there already appears to be an abundance of drug stores in Covington. CVS, Kroger and Rite Aid are all located in close proximity to the proposed Walgreens.

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