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April 22, 2013

Long-awaited Walgreens opens in former Borders’ spot

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

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Long-awaited Walgreens opens in former Borders’ spot
Jackie Hatten, lead beauty advisor at the new Walgreens on Woodward, arranges cosmetics before the store opens to the public for the first time April 19.

BIRMINGHAM — It’s been a long journey, but the new Walgreens has finally opened its doors in the former Borders facility on Woodward Avenue.

The pharmacy chain held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the morning of April 19 to welcome community members and press into what they say is Michigan’s first “Well Experience Marquee Store.” In addition to the regular amenities available at any Walgreens, the Woodward location features Up Market, with fresh foods, wine, groceries and prepared foods; an expanded beauty center called “LOOK Boutique,” and state-of-the-art photo and checkout facilities with online shopping options.

As part of Walgreens’ Well Experience concept, the store’s pharmacy also offers more resources than other locations. There’s a self-serve kiosk for quick pick-up and refill of prescriptions, and the pharmacy will offer a number of clinic services, including some health testing and vaccinations. The big boast is the store’s “front-of-the-counter” format, bringing the pharmacist out to interact with customers in a furnished consultation area.

The store’s opening celebration was well-attended by Birmingham residents and a few familiar faces, including former Detroit Lions Hall of Famer Barry Sanders and Lions mascot Rory. Also on hand was state Rep. Mike McCready, R-Bloomfield Hills, Sen. John Pappageorge, R-Troy, and Oakland County Economic Development and Community Affairs Deputy Director Dan Hunter, as well as Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber President Joe Bauman and several members of the Birmingham City Commission.

Birmingham Mayor George Dilgard was among those in the crowd to celebrate the store’s opening, after having been through years of planning and discussions about Walgreens taking over the high-profile location. The chain first expressed interest in the spot shortly after its predecessor, Borders Books, Music & Café, announced its closing in 2011 after filing for bankruptcy. According to Dilgard, Walgreens went back and forth with the city’s Planning Board many times before getting approval for a Special Land Use Permit in February 2012.

“We have high standards. This is part of the Triangle District and our 2007 master plan. The Planning Board and staff know what the bar is, and they had Walgreens step up to that bar. It’s first rate on the outside as well as the inside,” he said.

Dilgard explained that the pharmacy’s drive-thru feature was one of the sticking points with the city, which typically discourages drive-thru lanes for any type of business. The City Commission and Planning Board also had some issues with the exterior design.

“The existing building is well-designed and everything, but the lighting was poor quality — there was a lot of glare and inefficient lighting. The parking lot was basically a wide area of asphalt, and now we have landscape islands, which are part of our master plan for the city for new parking lots,” he said.

In the end, the corporation agreed to the city’s landscape design requests, repaired the exterior lighting to be more efficient and glare-resistant, and even sealed the deal by donating the right of way along Worth Street, at the rear of the property, to the city for a future project.

“We have some other signature events coming up. On Maple, we have the 130-unit All Seasons of Birmingham senior living development that’s going to be breaking ground here in the next month or two, so that’s going to be high-end and a very big addition to the Triangle District. And your neighbors to the south here, (there is) a major expansion to Papa Joe’s, one of our favorite stores in town,” said Dilgard to the crowd during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

He and other guests seemed to agree that the high-end pharmacy seems to fit with the city’s master plan vision for what the Triangle District could become in the next few years.

“We’re just really glad that they’re here,” said Commissioner Gordon Rinschler. “We welcome all new business in Birmingham and we’re always open for business, and this is a great new business to have.”

Members of the Walgreens team echoed Rinschler’s sentiment during the opening.

“As we’ve been walking up and down the streets just hearing people talk about how excited they are, we want to let you know we’re really excited, as well. This is just fantastic for us,” said Jason McGhee, district manager for Walgreens.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.