Walgreens is coming to downtown Covington, and Covington Ford could be leaving.
Walgreens is moving into the lot at the corner of Elm Street and U.S. Highway 278, which is currently home to a vacant Shell Gas Station. However, Walgreens is purchasing 1.8 acres of land, which will include all of the .39 acres of the station, owned by Petroleum Realty II, and much of the 2.83 acres owned by Covington Ford and Wendell Crowe.
With Walgreens moving into the area, Covington Ford is going to have to move at least part of its operation. The service center building would most likely be unaffected by the purchase. Crowe could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.
Anchor Properties is the developer for this Walgreens store, and Anchor Executive Vice President Michael Ricke said the company was moving into Covington, because there is no Walgreens 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 a nice site and a good location. We think we’ll have good access being on 278," Ricke said. He said there was no timetable for the beginning of construction.
However, Walgreens arrival in Covington was in limbo, because the company would not move to the city unless it was able to be exempted from a couple of ordinance requirements.
The most important requirement was a new change instituted this year, which no longer allows businesses to put parking spaces between the front of the business and 278.
Instead business fronts are supposed to be next to 278, and parking is supposed to be located on the side or in the back of the building. This ordinance change was made to make the front of 278 more aesthetically-pleasing, with the idea that store fronts are more appealing than parking lots. Also, the ordinance is designed to make 278’s sidewalks more pedestrian friendly by preventing cars from parking right next to those sidewalks.However the presence of the Dried Indian Creek prevented the store from locating along 278 and still being able to have road access from 278.
The Walgreens could have avoided this requirement by locating its front on Elm Street, but Attorney Scott Cole argued that the unusual acute angle of the property still created an access problem and a diagonal corner of the store would be facing toward 278, which would hurt visibility and the ability of drivers to identify the store.
The Board of Zoning Appeals and Adjustments met Tuesday afternoon to hear these arguments and decided that the unusual angle of the intersection warranted the board granting these ordinance exemptions. Board member Lee Aldridge said the fact that the store would be removing a prominent blight 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.
In addition, board members appreciated Walgreens promise to turn the northwest corner of the property into open greenspace for the city to use. Mayor Kim Carter was in attendance and said she appreciated the company’s effort to preserve the historic corridors to downtown and their willingness to compromise.