Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Just say 'no'

To drugstores, that is. While authorities continue to wage a cripplingly expensive crusade against drugs, the stores that legally sell them are spreading across the streetscape like a particularly nasty strain of Ebola infecting everything in its path.

Never was there a better example of the dichotomy presented by America’s secret love affair with drugs than the unabated proliferation of Eckerd, Walgreens and CVS Pharmacies littering just about every other corner of every other town in the Capital Region. And Saratoga Springs is not immune to the plague of tacky drug stores descending on upstate New York.

Developers representing the Rite Aid Corp. are proposing to build yet another pharmacy over what is now the Springs Motel on South Broadway. City planners will review Wednesday an application by the company to build a two-story “mix-use” building on the 1-acre lot overlooking the edge of Congress Park. The new structure would cover the entire motel, include seven second-floor apartments and provide 40 spaces of off-street parking an adjacent lot.

Proponents of change might point out that the Springs Motel –built in 1980 –isn’t much of a landmark to protect. In fact, some might argue the 29-room lodging is more of a 50s-era throwback that contributes to the relatively blighted atmosphere of South Broadway, which is dotted with similarly dated structures.

City leaders have long struggled to breathe new life into the area, allowing the past decade of success on Broadway to trickle further south. But it’s incredibly specious to think a pack of two-bit corporate pill pushers like Rite Aid would contribute anything to these efforts, especially when they already own an Eckerd on Ballston Avenue and less than 1,500 away from the motel.

Moreover, Rite Aid has nine locations within a 15-mile radius of the proposed building. Then add to these the CVS operating two blocks away on Broadway, two other CVS locations in nearby Malta and Ballston Spa, as well as a Walgreens store on West Avenue. Yes, pill poppers, there’s no shortage of dispensaries where you can pickup junior’s Ritlan, mom’s motion sickness Xanax and a few Hydrocodones for dad’s bum knee.

On the outside, it seems rather futile for these companies to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into what is clearly a supersaturated marketplace. But eventually, one of these companies will either go tits up or swallow one of the smaller drug pushers. Once a company emerges victorious in the market place, they will start to consolidate locations, leaving behind a gaggle of unsightly decaying drugstores in their wake.

City planners should also acknowledge the prior work of these companies in Saratoga Springs. Look no further than Congress Street to find arguably the least attractive building constructed in the city proper this century. Everything from the oversized CVS sign to the faux brick façade to the peculiar design suggests the diminutive and plasticine architectural predilections of chain drugstore companies. Members of the city Planning Board wrangled with the CVS developers for more than three years before grudgingly giving their approval; the only real concession they garnered was that the company wouldn’t include a drive-thru on the pedestrian friendly street.

Nearly a decade after the CVS plans were first puked out, the planners will have a new bone-brained plan foisted by a gang of corporate drug peddlers who already have a stake in the town. The company will likely hold out the seven units and accompanying parking spaces as a carrot and then suggest closing their store in the shopping plaza, which has had difficulty finding tenants in recent years.

However, the bottom line is that the city doesn’t need another drug store and could actually do with a few less. And given that the proposed structure doesn’t appear to add anything more to South Broadway than what is already there, the planners should view Rite Aid’s application with a good degree of trepidation. After all, how wise is it to trust a shifty drug pusher aiding society’s preoccupation with pill-form quick-fix solutions for whatever might be ailing them.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beware Saratoga... one more CVS cookie-cutter building and you will rival Florida's version of your town.

Behold the scary future:

http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/wdw/resorts/resortLanding?id=SaratogaSpringsResortLandingPage

4:35 PM  
Anonymous demroc said...

i seen the picture of nacy and reminded me of a time when people use to ask questions like, if you have to smoke weed to be happy, then there must be something wrong with you. boy college was fun. but i got to thinking how things have changed since the just say no era. now, people are popping whatever they can get their hands on, as the addiction problem grows in america, and how drug companies have no problem with that, as long as people are addicted to their drugs. Don't smoke weed, but pharmies are alright. anyone got a molly

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Horatio, you're right about this one. We've got more chain pharmacies than any one community could ever use. But what you failed to mention is that the ever-expanding number of chain drug stores is no different from the growing number of chains in other retail sectors.

Not only does Saratoga have a Borders, but there is a Barnes and Noble and a Walden Books in Wilton. If you think we've got too many chain drug stores, then the area is literally flooded with chain clothing stores, not to mention chain fast food restaurants. Worst of all, Saratogians have no good option for buying groceries besides Hannaford's and Price Chopper, both major chains. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

I completely agree that chain drug stores are bad, but, more importantly, chain stores in general are bad, as they let national corporations, not local business owners steer what we buy; from our entertainment to our food and everything inbetween.

All of these chains are guilty of establishing the same cook-cutter business around the region, and many of them are guilty of the same cook-cutter architecture you describe in relation to pharmacies.

Anyone who cares about the viability of our local economy, and indeed, the very sustainability of our national economy, should shop from local merchants at any opportunity they get.

And though it pains me to write it here, I will sooner buy my prescriptions from republican Michael Lenz's Menges and Curtis before I will sully myself by walking into CVS or any other chains out there.

6:42 AM  
Blogger shotinthedark said...

Okay the architecture sucks.
And if you need your pecker to be on high alert for an eight hour stretch you can get a pill for it.

Have you guys talked to your wife in the last 10 years? My wife goes to CVS and Purdy's probably at least once a week.
Let's face it any kind of shopping is a pain in the ass, but it at the very least it does get you out of the house

Privately held pharmacies like Menges and Curtis have pretty much gone the same route as neighborhood grocery stores.
What can I say; Stewarts, Mobil on the Run, and CVS have similar architecture and similar business plans.

This is the world we live in.

5:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

walgreens is at exit 15....not west ave

7:08 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

The city should force Rite Aid to build a higher building that's architecturally consistent with Saratoga's picturesque buildings and has many more (affordable) apartments - then I could agree with the project. I don't share the previous commenter's strong negativity on chains - I think within reason they are good for the retail mix - but like everything else they should be controlled and built in moderation.

7:23 PM  
Blogger Ben Arnold said...

Is there a picture of the proposed structure available anywhere? The building is more important than the user that occupies it.

10:11 PM  
Blogger Shag said...

I recently paid a visit to my hometown of Merrimack NH. 20 years ago, it was a giant forest with houses sprinkled into it, and NO chain retail stores of any kind. Everything was of the Mom-and-Pop variety.

Today, the entire town is one big strip mall, full of gas stations, supermarkets, drugstores, Dunkin Donuts, and the odd family-owned restaurant.

We are heading into a future where consumerism, laziness, greed, and deregulation combine to destroy hometowns across America.

6:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is a new article in the Post Star http://www.poststar.com/articles/2008/03/14/news/local/13421126.txt

Some of these facts may be true i.e. the overly expensive rents on Broadway, but I really think they missed the point here. Do people really think that by going off Broadway they will save their stores? There is NO traffic in town, no conventions, no "walkers". The streets are silent. Even the mail delivery people comment on the lack of traffic. Face it - the economy is in the toilet. There is no money and the city "jumped the shark" with promises of City Center expansion, etc. Saratoga got too high on itself. Thinking that no matter what, the town's residents would stick by it. Nope - not so It is a joke - I had a salesman from the Saratogian come in and tell me how we need to advertise our new location because "the paper is where it's at" and right behind him was the salesman from Star 101.3 telling me that we need to advertise on the radio because "the radio reaches more people". Seriously, I never see these people out supporting my business. Should I support theirs because they are "where it's at".

Bitter on Broadway

11:45 AM  

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