As expected, the Castro’s first CVS Pharmacy easily won approval from the city’s Planning Commission this afternoon (Thursday, May 16). Barring an appeal, the Rhode Island-based company plans to have the new store open by early 2014.
The commission unanimously voted to grant the national retailer the necessary permits to locate its latest San Francisco store at the Market and Noe Center. CVS plans to revamp the concrete facade of the building that has sat vacant for close to six years following the closure of former tenant Tower Records.
CVS will only occupy a renovated ground floor space but is making improvements to the second floor of the building so it can be leased to another business or for office use. Radio Shack will remain a tenant in its storefront at the property.
To win neighborhood backing – in a rarity for the Castro and San Francisco as a whole, no one spoke against CVS’ application at the hearing today – the company agreed not to sell alcohol at the 2280 Market Street store and not to be open 24 hours a day.
“Looking at the project in terms of building size and scope, CVS is an appropriate use,” said Dennis Richards, the former president of the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association whose tenure included numerous meetings about the vacant shopping center. “They worked really well with us. Had the prior applicant, Trader Joe’s, done that we probably wouldn’t be here today.”
Commissioner Kathrin Moore marveled at the lack of opposition, remarking that the company must have a “magic touch.” She also applauded CVS executives for a design that “seems to move away from formulaic appearance to have an appropriate look where it is. I am pleased to see that.”
Commissioner Gwyneth Borden, who lives in the area, said she welcomes seeing a new pharmacy open in the Castro and bring some business competition.
“Gone are the days of smaller pharmacies. Now we only have larger ones,” she said. “I live in the neighborhood and the only game in town is Walgreens.”
It was only last week that the Planning Commission voted down an application from Starbucks to open a coffeehouse a block away on Market Street. The Seattle-based chain had drawn fierce neighborhood opposition as well as vocal supporters.
Unlike today’s breeze of a hearing on CVS – it lasted roughly 30 minutes – Starbucks went for nearly two hours. In that case the store triggered a new rule covering the upper Market Street corridor that disfavors chain stores that bring the percentage of formula retail to 20 percent or more in a 300-foot radius.
Starbucks would have resulted in a 21 percent ratio; the CVS was calculated at 18 percent by planning staff. The difference for the locations so close to one another caught the attention of Commissioner Hisashi Sugaya.
“It is interesting projects one block apart had a different outcome under the 20 percent rule,” he noted.
The next battle over a formula retailer looking to open in the Castro will come in June, when Chipotle seeks permits to open at the old Home restaurant location at the corner of Market and Church streets. The national burrito chain has drawn negative reactions similar to Starbucks and is expected to have a formula retail percentage higher than 20 percent.
The date for its hearing before the Planning Commission has yet to be announced, but planning staff have already said they are not in support of seeing the chain open at the prominent intersection.