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Downers Grove approves new Walgreens despite aesthetic concerns

DOWNERS GROVE – A plan to build a new Walgreens store at the Meadowbrook Shopping Center on 63rd Street was approved Aug. 8 by the Downers Grove Village Council, but not before some commissioners voiced displeasure over materials that will be used to renovate the mall.

The council voted 4-3 to approve a plan to build the Walgreens at 2001 63rd St., which would be accompanied by improvements to the mall’s parking lot and facade.

Mayor Martin Tully cast the deciding vote in favor of the proposal.

The 14,490-square-foot Walgreens would be located on a 1.6-acre parcel at the southwest corner of Woodward Avenue and 63rd Street and include a drive-thru pharmacy window.

“I have serious concerns about this development,” said commissioner Nicole Walus, who voted against the plan.

Commissioners Marge Earl and William Waldack also voted against the proposal.

Walus said she did not favor the use of exterior insulation and finishing systems, which is a multi-layered exterior finish, on the exterior of the store.

“I think we’re settling for the bare minimum,” Walus said before asking commissioners to delay a vote on the proposal until Sept. 12.

Earl agreed and questioned the long-term durability of the finish.

“I just don’t like the way this Walgreens looks,” Earl said. “I really feel the village is getting the short end of the stick.”

At a previous council meeting, Earl said she preferred the use of brick or stone on Walgreens’ exterior, especially because it will be the centerpiece of the mall.

Tully said holding up the proposal because of design issues represented “classic government overreach.”

“It’s no way to run a government, in my opinion,” Tully said, adding the village should not legislate taste.

Commissioner Greg Hose said concerns about the village’s building and design codes should be discussed separately.

“We can make the code as stringent as we want,” Hose said.

Commissioner Bill White said the store’s aesthetics were a concern but were not serious enough to delay the plan.

“I’m not willing to derail all the effort that got us here,” White said.

At the Aug. 1 council meeting, Mitchell Kahn, president of Frontline Real Estate Partners, which owns the mall, said exterior insulation and finishing systems was not a quality building material 25 years ago.

“It’s a dramatically different product today,” Kahn said.

He added Walgreens will be responsible for maintaining the building, a responsibility the company takes very seriously, he said.

The new Walgreens will be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and the pharmacy will operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Plans call for the store to include 66 parking spaces.

Roundhead's Pizza Pub, which is currently on the site, will be demolished to make way for the store.

On its Facebook page, Roundhead's stated it is moving to 500 75th St. in Downers Grove.

More than $1 million has been spent on renovations, including parking lot and roof repairs, Kahn said.

The mall is currently 80-percent leased, and adding Walgreens to the mix should attract other tenants, he said.

In addition to facade updates, strip mall improvements would include upgraded landscaping, new speed bumps, repairs to the rear access drive and parking lot renovations.

The improvements are designed to attract additional tenants to the shopping center. The center features several small businesses and restaurants.

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