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Owner wants to replace high-traffic ‘eyesore’ Portland drug store

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Owner wants to replace high-traffic ‘eyesore’ Portland drug store

PORTLAND — Owners of a high-traffic Rite Aid Pharmacy on Congress Street want to demolish the store and replace it with one about 50 percent larger.

“This building has outlived its useful life,” Mark Sengelmann of ALPHAarchitects, representing store owner Skowhegan Plaza Limited Partnership, said during a city Planning Board workshop Tuesday. “It’s about 7,000 square feet, and we want to build one that’s more than 11,000 square feet.”

Sengelmann wrote in his application to the city Planning Department that, as a result of Rite Aid corporate store layout requirements, “our footprint is locked in as a standard 86-foot-4-inch-by-130-feet-6-inch rectangle with a corner entry.”

The architect told the board Tuesday developers plan to build two-thirds of the new building while leaving the current store open for business.

“Rite Aid doesn’t want to lose its pharmacy clients,” Sengelmann said. “They’re afraid they’ll go elsewhere if they can’t get what they need at this site for an extended (construction) period.”

The pharmacy is in a high-traffic and high-visibility location, with more than 850 vehicles on average passing by the 0.8-acre spot during the peak hour starting at 4:30 p.m., with nearly 60 cars and 26 pedestrians patronizing the store during that time.

The 24-foot-high largely brick building will feature large windows and a vegetation bed along Congress Street. It will replace a relatively nondescript one-story structure that was built in 1941.

“The existing Rite Aid building has been an eyesore for some many years,” Planning Board member Jack Soley said.

“We’re really excited about the improvements this building is going to make to Congress Street,” Sengelmann told the board.

“I think it’s really an improvement over what’s there now,” said board member Bill Hall. “I think it’ll fit into the neighborhood better.”

Some area residents told the board they worried about plans to move the driveway from the east side of the property to the west, as it will no longer line up across from Dow Street, and about a possible increase in crime at the newly created back parking lot.

“We just want to make sure it’s clean,” said Keri Lord, who told the board she has lived in a building behind the Rite Aid site for 35 years. “We’re really concerned about lighting back there.”

Others expressed concerns Tuesday about how the adjacent, but privately owned, Deering Lane might be affected by the additional traffic or construction trucks.

Tuesday’s board discussion of the project was in a workshop setting, so no votes were taken. Board chairman Stuart O’Brien instructed the developers to consider the public’s questions and concerns when putting together their proposal for official approval at a later date.