PTC Planners postpone vote on Walgreens architecture
REVISED for print edition — Saying they needed better visuals before making a final decision, the Peachtree City Planning Commission Monday night postponed a vote on the proposed architecture for the Walgreens pharmacy that will replace the existing Ruby Tuesday restaurant at the intersection of Ga. Highway 54 and Peachtree Parkway.
Commissioners suggested that Walgreens bring back visuals that blend photographs of the existing site with a representation of the actual size of the building and how it would fit onto the site.
“We really have to see how this looks in this particular setting,” said Planning Commissioner Horace Batiste. “That is one of the most prominent corners that we have here in Peachtree City.”
Much of the concern expressed by citizens and several commissioners is related to the fact that the Walgreens will be three times the size of the existing Ruby Tuesday restaurant.
A Walgreens representative has said the existing vegetation on the site would remain, particularly along Hwy. 54 and Peachtree Parkway. Several dead trees will need to be removed, but specifically not from the vegetation at the corner of Hwy. 54 and the parkway, said Walgreens representative Scott Moore of United Retail.
While most of the architectural improvements were well-received by the commission, there was some discussion about whether a tower at the northeast corner of the building would give the building a more imposing look from the roadway. Moore said he would be fine with eliminating the tower if the city wants to, but he explained that it was added as more of an architectural feature to keep with the “village” feel of the area.
The tower height is proposed at 34 feet. Community Development Director David Rast suggested that a balloon could be raised on the site to simulate the potential height of the tower to help give perspective on how it would fit in visually.
The tower proposed by United Retail would not feature the typical window with the Walgreens mortar and pestle in the background. Instead it would have a lighter shade of brick and the Walgreens sign facing Ga. Highway 54.
“I think the tower is great, but if the negative feedback we get from the public is this thing is too imposing, that’s the first thing that sticks out to me,” said Planning Commissioner David Conner.
Commissioner Joe Frazar noted that the Walgreens will be about 2,000 square feet larger than its next-door neighbor and direct competitor: Rite-Aid.
“That’s what people are concerned about,” Frazar said. “You can build a building that fits your needs and fills that better than this monstrosity. ... It will look better and make everybody much happier.”
Resident Mary Giles was very critical of the Walgreens proposal, saying she felt it was “a slap in the face to the residents of Peachtree City.”
“The reason I say that is the size of the building, the location is wrong and the absolute absurdity of placing a pharmacy directly next door to an existing pharmacy,” Giles said.
Giles was also critical of Walgreens for not responding to citizen concerns expressed via emails and letters.
“You can reduce the footprint here. It can be done,” she said. “You can take our comments and work with them and address them. But you’re not doing that. ... I’m just saying I’m really disappointed and I wanted to make that point.”
Resident Robert Brown agreed that Walgreens should reduce its size somewhat.
“If the corporation really cared about the city, they’d maybe look at that and say ‘maybe we can take 1,000 feet off,’” Brown said. “Apparently that’s not the case here.”
United Retail’s Moore said the size issue was settled previously during the conceptual plan stage of development, as the city approved the size in that plan and, based on that approval, his company has already been through the engineering phase for the project.
The store’s architecture has been modified to remove a stone band on the lower part of the walls at the recommendation of Peachtree City architectural firm Historical Concepts, Moore said. Also, United Retail added several trellises to give it a softer feel, Moore said.
Since Walgreens so far hasn’t budged on shrinking the store size, the details of the architecture and the visual impact on the area are all the more important, said Commissioner Patrick Staples.
In response to one citizen’s question about Walgreens locating immediately next door to direct competitor Rite-Aid, Moore said Walgreens had approached Rite-Aid about taking over its lease there, and also tried to purchase all Rite-Aid stores in the market. Both overtures were turned down, he said.
Moore also pointed out that Walgreens would be owning its store, unlike Rite-Aid which is leasing its location next door.
Moore noted that at the commission’s request United Retail removed several parking spaces that would have been along the Peachtree Parkway side of the development to create more room for greenspace. There also is a significantly-sized landscaping area in between the store and Ga. Highway 54.
Resident Beth Pullias said she would prefer the store’s exterior to be shingled instead of brick to provide a more residential feel for the development. Moore said his initial proposal was to go with the shingles and he would be glad to go back to that concept if the city wants to.
Resident Felix Kelley said he liked the view of the building approaching the site from Peachtree Parkway, particularly since that side of the tower won’t have a Walgreens sign. That, Moore said, is because the city only allows one sign for the building, and the company has chosen to have it face Hwy. 54, not the parkway.