Senior citizens would have ‘hard time’ if Osco pharmacy left

Managing Editor for News Denis Theriault is a Medill senior. He can be reached at [email protected].

More than most people, Barbara Bridges can tell you how important it is that Evanston senior citizens have access to a functional pharmacy in the city’s downtown.

Bridges is the head pharmacist at Osco Drug, 1630 Sherman Ave., which has the only pharmacy within walking distance for those senior citizens living in one of the handful of retirement communities either inside or just outside downtown Evanston.

The pharmacy also is two blocks away from the Levy Center, the city-funded senior center, whose members value their proximity to downtown businesses and services.

For those residents — many of whom are unable to drive to stores elsewhere — Bridges’ pharmacy is an absolute necessity. Without it, they would have to pay to have prescriptions delivered from other places — an alternative that many seniors would find too costly and a hindrance on their independence.

It’s no wonder Bridges was concerned when rumors of the proposed $100 million Sherman Plaza mentioned closing Osco temporarily — or even permanently — to make way for the project.

“They would have a hard time (without a downtown pharmacy),” Bridges said Tuesday night, just after helping an older man decipher the dosage recommendations on his prescription form.

Delivery fees were only a part of Bridges’ worries. She said she feared what would happen to customers who would lose the relationships they had built with her staff.

Because senior citizens often have a difficult time establishing new relationships, Bridges said, some customers might not ask important questions about their prescriptions if they were at a pharmacy they did not trust.

But concerns such as those scarcely were mentioned by residents or city officials in recent discussions with Sherman Plaza developer James Klutznick and building owner Stuart Handler about the store’s fate. They talked tax dollars instead.

Perhaps that’s what makes Jewel-Osco’s decision to move the store to a temporary location in the event of construction so remarkable.

Company officials on Monday said they’d open a smaller store at 1710 Sherman Ave. if the plaza were built. The store primarily would be a pharmacy that sold over-the-counter drugs. Other basic items also would be sold at the temporary location, which would be too small to offer the same selection of products that the current store does.

Sure, Klutznick intimated to The Daily that a new Osco would be included in the finished Sherman Plaza. That might sound well and good, but the decision still seems as if it were an afterthought.

Overlooking the interests of the city’s senior citizens in favor of “economic development” appears to be a trend in this town. The Levy Center, which was unceremoniously moved to create room for the Church Street Plaza, still might be moved to a remote corner of southwestern Evanston.

For people such as Bridges, the Osco fracas is symptomatic of the city’s negligence of senior citizen’s concerns and needs.

“It’s drivin’ me crazy,” she said.