New Walgreens store rises on University Ave. in Hillcrest

Community leaders hope for a good neighbor

The long-planned, controversial Walgreens store in Hillcrest is well under construction at 301 University Avenue. The former vacant structure, last used for medical offices, was on the site located directly across University from Urban Mo's Bar & Grill.

Many Hillcrest residents had opposed the Walgreens project, instead preferring more parking or a range of stores. Others argued the existing building should have received historic status.

Luke Terpstra, chair of the Hillcrest Town Council, said that “HTC has not heard from Walgreens. The HTC is still committed to the interim height ordinance, so we are pleased that their design is in keeping with that scope. Also, the design is looking good and should, I think, fit in well with the Hillcrest community.”

As for local involvement, Terpstra replied, “It is difficult to tell if they are going to be good neighbors until they move in, but we are hoping for a good relationship. When they get here,” he said, “I do plan to go and meet the local managers and staff and welcome them to Hillcrest.”

Benjamin Nicholls, executive director of Hillcrest Business Association, has a wait-and-see attitude: “In the past I have lamented that this property posed a great infill development opportunity for the neighborhood that won't happen now. Hillcrest already has a high number of businesses of this type, and I believe a more progressive mixed-use building with a variety of tenants would have been more beneficial than this single use.”

Competing stores are a Rite Aid at 535 Robinson Avenue, and a CVS Pharmacy at 313 E. Washington Avenue. Walgreens already has a small pharmacy located at 640 University Avenue. The new store will be larger, like the Walgreens at 3222 University Avenue in North Park.

In a May 7 statement, San Diego City Council president Todd Gloria said, “The market will determine the appropriate balance of pharmacies...and competition can ensure a better customer and neighborhood experience.” He said he is “thankful Walgreens listened to concerns from me and other neighbors by designing a building that better fits the character of the neighborhood, and further activates University Avenue with a street-facing entrance….”

Nicholls said, “I hope that Walgreens is a good neighbor through maintaining their part of the neighborhood with security, cleaning, and creating an inviting storefront that faces University. Many stores of this nature abandon their street-fronting doorways, don't sweep their sidewalks, and through poor management become attractions for homeless people.” Added Nicholls, “We support any new business that opens in Hillcrest.”

A request for comment from media relations at Walgreens corporate offices received no immediate reply.

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Once they open their doors, don't plan on any kind of neighborliness, once they start rotating staff more than I rotate tires. Most corporate chain stores do not know how to be part of a neighborhood community. Their staff will live way outside the community where they work, and have no idea what makes your community tick. Only how to follow corporate policy - which the first person that asks to put up a flyer for a community event will find out when they are told NO. The staff will only know where the nearest fast food lunch place is and the nearest on/off ramp to the freeway. These types of stores take millions of dollars out of our communities, but rarely show up to chambers of commerce meetings, sponsor a little league team, or buy a computer for the local school. Its not in their DNA nor their business model. I hope maybe it is different for this store.

It just doesn't seem like that area of Hillcrest needs another drug store. I wish they would have built it further west on University in North Park where I live.

I guess they didn't because they already have a Walgreens in North Park. But there's a plan to put a small independent pharmacy at Louisiana and University, since Albertsons doesn't have a pharmacy.

Thanks for the update Dave. I guess another drug store is better than nothing. My take away- Todd Gloria's 'establishment fetish' is alive and well!

I went by today, and here's what it looks like now.

The Walgreens in North Park is fine. They are friendly and have lots of drugstore stuff. Across the street is CVS, if you prefer them. There used to be a Rite Aid on 30th, where another customer swiped my credit card once. These businesses come and go.

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