Six Structures to Fall for New Walgreens
By Margaret Foster | Online Only | May 5, 2010
A 110-year-old mansion and five other structures in Duluth, Minn., will soon be replaced by a Walgreens drug store. Last week the city council voted unanimously to clear the way for the project, to the dismay of some residents, who point out that the current Walgreens, one block away, is suitable.
"We did look at other sites and couldn't find any in the area that could accommodate our store with a drive-through to serve our patients," says Robert Elfinger, Walreens spokesman. The existing store, at 8,900 usable square feet, is "older, and harder to maintain," Elfinger says. "The mansion has been divided up, and it is in disrepair. Duluth City Council understood that and made a practical decision."
Construction of the new 16,000-square-foot Walgreens will require demolition of the Greek Revival Louis Loeb House, designed in 1900 by local architect John Wangenstein; two 1891 foursquare houses designed by Oliver Traphagen, architect of Duluth's Old City Hall; two office buildings, and one other house. None of the buildings is a designated landmark.
"We certainly hate to see the structures go," says Carolyn Sundquist, who serves on the board of advisors of the National Trust and on the board of the Duluth Preservation Alliance. "When it comes to good, modern city planning, the thought of taking down an entire city block of modest city structures to put up a big-box store … I think that's unfortunate."
Asbestos abatement and demolition will begin "in the next month or so," according to John Kohler of Semper Development, which builds Walgreens stores. Kohler has contracted an architectural antiques specialist who can salvage elements from the buildings before demolition. So far, however, no one has taken him up on the offer. "Nobody has contacted me, outside of people saying, 'Don't tear these down,' and that was just one or two here or there."
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