CVS superstore to stay open a little while longer
on April 20, 2011
Much to many Oakland’s residents’ chagrin, over the past few months the CVS superstore on Broadway and Pleasant Valley has been packing up its wares. This colossal neighborhood general store, which has been around since the 1960s, carries everything from motor oil to shoe racks to extensive gardening equipment. The shopping center’s master leaseholder, Safeway, notified CVS in 2009 that it would not renew its lease in order to make way for a shopping center redesign. The mega-drugstore was initially slated to close this June.
But now there’s been a slight change of plans—CVS will stay open a few more months, likely through December. “We are negotiating a lease extension with our landlord that will allow us to keep the store open until the end of the year,” says Mike DeAngelis, director of public relations for CVS.
The shopping center where CVS is located is on the cusp of a major redevelopment project. In 2009, Safeway, whose master lease gives the company control of the site, proposed a complete overhaul of the area that would demolish the existing shopping center and build a new, bigger Safeway store in the location of the CVS. The construction of more commercial space is also planned.
The most recent proposed design includes 296,000 square feet of commercial space—of which Safeway would occupy 65,000 square feet—as well as 961 parking spots contained within a three-story parking structure that would sit atop the retail stores.
While Oakland’s Planning Commission Design Review Committee has definitively approved Safeway’s proposal to redevelop the land, the new design for the area is still pending approval. Darin Ranelletti, the city’s case planner on this project, says Safeway notified him of their lease extension for CVS, but “they didn’t tell me for how long or for what reason.”
Currently, the Design Review Committee is preparing a draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to analyze the potential environmental implications of the project, after which there will be a public review period and a hearing at which members of the public can voice opinions. Ranelletti says the EIR will most likely be available to the public in May or June.
DeAngelis was not able to address questions about why the drugstore’s lease had been extended. As of press time, Safeway representatives had not returned requests for comment.
This megastore was originally built by PayLess Drug and later was bought by Rite-Aid, then by Longs, earning the store the nickname “Super Longs.” In 2008, the entire Longs chain was acquired by CVS Caremark. Unlike most CVS stores, which are around 12,000 to 13,000 square feet, this superstore is 90,000 square feet.
Some community groups say that most of the store’s owners since PayLess have struggled with the vast space and merchandising. But it was exactly the gigantic size and selection, along with being open 24 hours for many years, that endeared it to the North Oakland community. When Safeway announced that the superstore would be closing, two “Save Super Longs” Facebook pages were put up and hundreds of letters were written to Oakland city officials pleading to halt the closure.
CVS operates six other drugstores in Oakland, including one a few blocks away at 41st Street off of Piedmont Avenue where the company is planning to transfer pharmacy operations from the superstore once it closes. And even though CVS’s lease has been extended, the store is still in the process of closing down. The aisles on one half of the back of the store have been cleared and the entire automotive, hardware, home repair and paint section has been shuttered.
“It’s like a ghost town,” says Stuart Flashman, board chair of the Rockridge Community Planning Council, which is one of several community groups that produced a joint report critiquing — and providing alternative designs for — Safeway’s proposed shopping center redesign. “Half the things that I want aren’t there any more, for me the store is a skeleton.”
As employees rearrange the goods, moving merchandise to new sections, finding needed items can be difficult. For example, the aisle that says “adhesives” and “arts and crafts” is actually full of diapers. Other sections are full of discounted goods, such as buttons that are 75 percent off. The entire dwindling fishing supplies section is now marked with “50 percent off clearance” signs.
Flashman says that if Safeway had decided to extend the lease six months ago it would have made more sense both for CVS and its customers. “It’s sad because it was a wonderful store,” he says. “It’s been crippled.”
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