Far from the image of a big box store barreling into Unionville and putting a small, family-owned pharmacy out of business, the plan to build a Walgreens at 50 Mill St. in Unionville is one that’s good for both Ryan Pharmacy and for the village, according to Unionville Village Improvement Association President Timothy LeBouthillier.
If the plan is approved, Walgreens would “merge with” Ryan Pharmacy, founded in 1957 by William Ryan and purchased by Peter Griffin in 1986. Ryan Pharmacy employees would staff the new Walgreens and C.J. Griffin, Peter Griffin’s son, would manage the store, according to a letter Peter Griffin wrote to the Farmington planning office.
“My decision to enter into this agreement was not an easy one,” Griffin wrote in the letter. “Many external factors (such as the state’s decision to force its employees to obtain their prescriptions by mail) have made it difficult to continue to operate as an independent pharmacy. After the merger is completed, I plan to retire and spend more time with family and friends. You should expect to see my son C.J. and a vast majority of the staff continuing to work at the pharmacy.”
In addition to consideration for Ryan’s, developers also were sensitive to the village’s history and its vision for the future, LeBouthillier said.
“We wanted to ensure the project was in keeping with our history and the look of the mill town we’ve been trying to create,” he said.
That means going back to what Unionville looked like before redevelopment and working to create a walkable downtown.
“There were some fantastic buildings that we lost [in redevelopment] and we have a chance to work with people who honor that vision to recreate it. That’s exciting,” LeBouthillier said.
In drawing up plans for the proposed Walgreens, architect BL Companies and developer Sound Development worked off of photographs, provided by Unionville Museum Vice-President Cliff Alderman, of the Broadbent mill that once stood on the site.
Sound Development also met several times with the Unionville Architectural Review Design Committee and the Unionville Village Improvement Association, incorporating their suggestions into the design and winning their support, said Gary Eucalitto, a member of the development team.
The latest drawings call for a 10,000 square-foot footprint with 3,000 square feet of storage space on a second floor. The exterior is mostly corbelled brick with eyebrow windows and some limestone. From the road, it would look like three storefronts, Eucalitto said and the building is set 10 feet back from the sidewalks. Parking is in the back of the building and there are entrances near the street and the parking lot.
Developers didn’t even consider a drive-through window, he added, in part because of traffic concerns, which he said would not likely be substantial.
On the contrary, the Walgreens is likely to generate less traffic than the stores and apartments the Town Plan and Zoning Commission approved for the parcel in 2004, Eucalitto said. And since Walgreens will be buying Ryan’s scripts, its anticipated customers are already using the intersection.
“It’s expected to be local traffic,” Eucalitto said. "The whole intersection has been upgraded to accommodate something at this location. We have no expectation to exceed what was approved prior or create any kind of congestion. Pharmacies just don’t have that kind of traffic flow.”
Finally, Eucalitto said the deal, in which Sound Development would buy the 50 Mill St. parcel, would free up money for the current owner to move forward with developing the other parts of his property.
Sound Development will seek a zoning amendment at tonight’s Town Plan and Zoning meeting at Town Hall at 7:30 p.m. If the amendment is approved, the developer would likely return for a site plan application soon afterward.