CVS official predicts store will open by end of May

After about eight months of delays, the Sherman Avenue CVS/pharmacy could open by the end of the month, company officials said.

Construction began at the former Wherehouse Music location, 1711 Sherman Ave., this February, and the drug store is scheduled to open May 30, said Michele Dodd, regional director of real estate for CVS and a Northwestern Alum.

Concerns highlighted by Evanston’s Site Plan and Appearance Review Board about the storefront design delayed the project, which originally was scheduled to be completed in September 2003. CVS had wanted to place large signs over the front windows but the board was concerned that such signs would hurt the appearance of the downtown area.

Now that construction is underway, exterior work on the store should be completed by the middle of this month, said John Wojtila, development manager for Zaremba Group LLC, the developer for the project.

Once construction is completed, CVS will begin stocking the inside of the store. CVS often does not encounter delays like those seen in Evanston because the company usually builds freestanding stores instead of moving into existing locations, Dodd said.

She added that the company has standing arrangements with the Department of Planning and Development in Chicago, which speeds construction.

“In Chicago we have agreements with the city so that you really know what you’re getting into,” said Dodd, Law School ’90. “Whereas Evanston has very particular ideas about what they want and what they don’t want.”

Dodd said CVS officials liked the location on Sherman because of the proximity to Northwestern and Evanston’s busy downtown, but she said officials had considered pulling out of the project because of the resistance from the city.

If CVS had chosen to abandon the project in Evanston, the company probably would have opened another Evanston store outside of the downtown area, Dodd said. She said the company has some flexibility because there are only about 55 stores in the entire Chicago area.

The review board was aware CVS could decide to end the project, said Carolyn Brzezinski, chairwoman of the board, but it was not an overriding concern. She said the city usually is able reach a compromise with potential store owners.

“Evanston is very open to discussion,” Brzezinski said. “We never walk away from the table. We are very interested in discussing what the concerns are. And as long as the other side keeps coming back we can usually reach an agreement.”

The new CVS will be less than a block away from Osco Drug, 1630 Sherman Ave. Juanita Kocanda, manager of public affairs for Jewel/Osco, said she didn’t know if competition from CVS would be a problem.

But some students said they were looking forward to seeing a CVS in Evanston’s downtown area.

“I’m from the East Coast and we have CVS out there,” said Weinberg sophomore Elliott Coley. “I like the idea of having one here because I think Osco is terrible.”

Another drugstore isn’t a high priority for all students, though. Weinberg junior Mark Siegmund said he probably will go to CVS when it opens, but thought the space could be put to a better use.

“I’d prefer Wherehouse Music to another drugstore,” said Siegmund, referring to the space’s previous occupant.