There are roughly 5,401 Walgreens stores in America, but only one New Philadephia, Ohio. Residents in this community are battling the “largest drugstore chain” in America from opening up a Walgreens. Here is their report sent to Sprawl-Busters: “Franklin Square, the four well-manicured corners of W. High Ave. and 4th St., dates to 1804. The square was named after a similar plot of land in Philadelphia. It originally was owned by the city’s founder, John Knisely. New Philadelphia Realtor Terry Everett, along with a Cleveland development firm Visconti Companies, Inc., plans to demolish six houses to build a Walgreens; but in order to proceed, the developer needs the city to re-zone the site. The residents of New Philadelphia are in the midst of round two in the Walgreens drug store chain’s pursuit for a store in the historic Franklin Square neighborhood. The Heritage Home Association, has been speaking out against the development because three of the seven houses were built before 1900. Their mission is to preserve historical buildings in the county. The Association gathered 772 petition signatures against the construction in Franklin Square, and sent numerous emails to city council members. In May, more than a dozen people testified against the development at a public hearing. Residents argued against the loss of local, neighborhood-serving businesses for yet another chain pharmacy. Although the drugstore said it would create between $800,000 and $1 million in additional tax revenue for New Philadelphia, no studies were done to support their statement. In June, the New Philadelphia Planning Commission voted 4-3 not to recommend zoning changes that would allow a retail development in place of historic Franklin Square. More than 60 residents at the meeting erupted in applause and cheers. Mayor Ron Brodzinski is determined to ignore the voices of the community and change the face of the town forever, avidly pushing the proposal. If a Walgreens drugstore is erected at its proposed location, it will draw more cut-through traffic into the neighborhood, property values will plummet, tax payers will flee, and other jobs will be taken from the pharmacies already in town. In a matter of a few years the store probably will be empty and abandoned. The downward spiral of the neighborhood will already have begun and too late to change once it starts, the neighborhood will be a series of rental properties. The city of New Philadelphia has less than 20,000 residents and drug stores galore; there are three pharmacies within walking distance from the site, and two others. Another one isn’t needed. But it’s all about greed. Developer greed, city council visions of ‘green’, and Walgreens greed driven by Wall Street and their stock holders. Vanishing neighborhoods turn into strip malls, historical houses get bulldozed; the history and quaintness that once set us apart from other communities are gone too. We’ll become a carbon copy of everyone else, nothing unique, and nothing to identify our past. As Walgreens commercials say, “We don’t live in Perfect, so I guess I need to live in Reality.” Does this place exist? We thought it did, it’s called New Philadelphia, Ohio.”
Walgreens says its mission is to “build stronger communities,” but all too often, they end up building strong opposition. The pharmacy chain has a nasty habit of tearing down existing housing, sometimes historic, to pave the way for another corner store. Walgreens has 196 stores in Ohio. The New Philadelphia community gains no economic added value from this project, since all it does is shift existing market share from other drugstores. The Mayor will have to reject his own planning commission to rezone this property, and if he does, the hope is that this decision will lead to a courtroom, not to a ribbon-cutting. This is political land use planning at its worse. New Philadelphia should discharge its Plannning Commission, send them home with assurances that the Mayor will be making land use decisions in their place. For local contacts in New Walgreens — the former New Philadelphia, contact [email protected] For earlier stories on Walgreens, search Newflash by the company’s name.