Monday, January 10, 2011

CVS plans to purchase entire block in East Hillside, wiping out a community strip mall

By Rolf Flaig

Rolf Flaig owns Rolf Flaig State Farm Insurance Agency located at 1223 E. Superior Street.

CVS has made an offer to purchase the upper side of East Superior Street from 12th Avenue East to 13th Avenue East. This includes the gas station, the apartment/massage house and the Plaza Building. Their intention is to build a new CVS Pharmacy here to compete with the new Walgreens. (Walgreens’ plans to build on the entire eastern portion of the block from Superior Street up to First Street.)

The CVS action will displace nine businesses. It is my opinion that some of these businesses will not survive the transition. We all operate as a community collective here and our survival in part is based on the combined traffic that we create. In other words, people will come to the Beijing Restaurant for lunch and stop at the Hallmark to pick up a card, or come down for a workout at Anytime Fitness and stop at the Duluth Running Co. to look at shoes. Without the collective of these businesses it may be hard for some to survive on their own.

My fear is that by putting another pharmacy next to an existing pharmacy we will lose this area as a community shopping location. All we have to do is look at what happened to the Hillside around East Fourth Street and Sixth Avenue East when the hospitals bought up the property and displaced those local businesses. I find it ironic that the city would allow this to happen.

After all, one of the first things the Lincoln Park area did to revitalize their part of town was build a strip mall for local businesses. The West Duluth mall on Grand Avenue is now the focal point of a revitalized business community. Allowing CVS to circumvent Duluth’s comprehensive land use program and displace these businesses is counter- productive.

Currently I have not found a suitable relocation spot in the area. I have expanded my search now to include the Kenwood neighborhood and the Central Entrance area and have not ruled out the Miller Mall area either. I would like to stay in this area but new locations are very limited here. I also have to consider the issue of destination versus location. It is much more desirable for my business to be located in an area like The Plaza and its collective of businesses. As a stand-alone office I suspect I would have a considerable drop in “walk-in” business. Convenience is important for today’s consumers, and one-stop shopping lends itself to that end.