Just say 'no'
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.