SCARBOROUGH — The big white box at Oak Hill that will soon be a new Walgreens is raising a few eyebrows – and questions.
Some residents and owners of nearby businesses are saying the 20,000-square-foot structure rising on the site of a former fast-food restaurant and bank seems too large and too tall for the property, and too close to the corner of Route 1 and Route 114.
Town Planner Dan Bacon last week said he has heard from several people expressing their concern over the building’s size and proximity to the road. Because the structure has been erected using insulated concrete forms, at this stage of construction, there is no indication of windows, roof lines or the building’s facade, he said.
“I’ve told people to stay patient with the building; it will blend in,” he said.
According to Bacon, a building may be constructed as close as 35 feet from a road. Walgreens is nearly 40 feet from Route 1, he said.
Planning Board Vice Chairman Cory Fellows last week said he has heard critical comments about the building. Though he brought up the topic to emphasize that design “really does matter” to Scarborough residents, Fellows said Wednesday that someone remarked that the building was “turning its back on the intersection of Route 1.”
“It may appear out of scale early on because of the big, white mass, but at the end of the day, people should be happy with it,” he said.
When the Planning Board considered the design last winter, Fellows said, it wanted the building to “relate to the intersection” and to evoke a town-center feel with a design that has the look of two stories. To anchor it to the road and to include the shops in Oak Hill Plaza, the board required parking only in the rear, which would bring Walgreens customers in more direct contact with nearby plaza stores.
Fellows said the comments he’s heard remind him of comments made when Bessey Commons was being constructed – a project he said is now regarded as an attractive addition to Route 1.
For the most part, owners and managers of the plaza shops are looking forward to Walgreens’ arrival.
Felicia Webber, assistant manager of Family Dollar, said the size of the store doesn’t surprise her. And Paws Applause owner Diana Locke said the construction and torn-up parking lot has been a nuisance, but she is looking forward to the new neighbor.
“I think it will clean up the corner; clean up the parking lot,” Locke said. “It’s going to increase visibility and increase traffic to the plaza.”
Ace Hardware Office Manager Anne Johnson and Oak Hill Florist owner Jenny Thomas said they are also counting on Walgreens generating more business. But, while she likes the idea of more customers, Thomas said she’s still concerned about the building’s size.
“This is supposed to be our town center and to me this building is going to be a giant eyesore,” she said. “I think it’s warped Oak Hill Plaza and makes the rest of us look tiny and insignificant.”
Thomas said the concern she has is access to the plaza.
But Bacon said new and improved signs, which will include two or three updated business directory signs, as well as directional signs, were included in the board’s approval. The sign ideas came from a master planning exercise with the Planning Board and plaza manager Steve Berg, of Alpha Management. Bacon said sidewalks will also be installed throughout the plaza.
In the last few days, the large white Walgreens mass has started to undergo a transformation. Workers have started creating the variations in roof lines, and exterior brickwork has begun.
Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org.