Rendering of new Chicago Avenue Walgreens store, submitted to City Council by Walgreens

When representatives of Walgreens appeared before the Planning and Development Committee in April of this year seeking a variance in order to maintain a drive-through as part of a rebuilt, reconfigured store at 635 Chicago Ave., they presented standard, rather vanilla plans for a typical Walgreens retail outlet. When they reappeared Monday night, Oct. 22, with new plans, Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, called the revision “the most amazing alteration” she had experienced.

“I am so envious of Alderman Wynne having something like this in her ward,” she said.

The new plans call for what will immediately become one of the greenest, if not absolutely the greenest, buildings in Evanston. The store will generate much of its own energy from two wind turbines in the parking lot and a full, staggered roof of solar panels. The new building will become a Walgreens showpiece project.

Dan Garneau, regional development manager for Walgreens, said, “We had our choice of many, many stores across the country for this.” Walgreens chose Evanston because it is known as a progressive, cutting-edge city known for green design.

Alderman Melissa Wynne said that the City anticipates the new store to be a “stopover for people across the country. It’s going to be a really big deal.” A similar project in Oak Park, not as green or advanced as Evanston’s store will be, already gets visitors on its own, she said.

The idea to make the building über-green came from Walgreens itself. The City only learned of changes to the plan just over a month ago, according to Dennis Marino, the City’s manager of Planning and Zoning. Once complete, the building is expected to become Evanston’s first LEED Platinum certified commercial building, the highest designation possible. The Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation synagogue on Dodge Avenue is also LEED Platinum.  The building will easily be the greenest stand-alone retail building in Evanston, and perhaps in the Chicago area.

Catherine Hurley, the City’s Sustainable Programs Coordinator, told the RoundTable that the fact that Walgreens chose Evanston shows that the City’s commitment to green building and energy efficiency is “attracting more green projects” to the City. Because the building will be less than 20,000 square feet, Walgreens is not required by the City’s green building ordinance to obtain LEED certification at all, but instead could select sustainable building components from a list in the GBO. Walgreens instead chose to shoot for Platinum status.
Mr. Garneau said Walgreen’s plans to start construction “just after Valentine’s Day and be open before Thanksgiving 2013.”