CLEARWATER — The Clearwater Beach roundabout is some prime real estate. Thirteen years after it was created, it remains the grand entrance to one of the region's most-visited beaches.
Ringing the roundabout are a number of iconic brands and locations. There's a Hooters and a Crabby Bill's. There's a Ron Jon Surf Shop and a Wings Beachwear store. There's Pier 60 Park and the Clearwater Beach Marina.
Soon to join them: a new Walgreens. That's what's being built at a construction site on the northeast side of the roundabout.
Some people are less than excited about the giant pharmacy chain occupying this spot. "Just what we need — another Walgreens," moaned Clearwater Beach resident Jonas Garfield, 62.
But wait! It won't be just any Walgreens.
First of all, it'll be big — a two-story, nearly 23,000-square-foot store, according to property owner and developer Joseph Kokolakis. That's nearly twice the size of a standard Walgreens.
Also, it will be a fancy new kind of Walgreens.
The country's largest drugstore chain has begun revamping the look and feel of its retail outlets by offering fresh fruits and vegetables, expanding health care services and spiffing up cosmetics counters. It's launching "well experience" stores around the country. The new layout creates a space on the sales floor where a pharmacist can interact directly with customers.
"It's a new store concept we're bringing to Florida. It starts in the pharmacy, where we're bringing the pharmacist out from behind the counter to a front desk area," said Walgreens spokesman Robert Effinger. "There will be more groceries and healthy food options."
The new store is slated to open in late 2013 and will replace the existing Walgreens at 660 S Gulfview Blvd. on south Clearwater Beach, he said. The new store won't be the only chain pharmacy in that immediate area; there's a CVS around the corner on N Mandalay Avenue.
The city's Community Development Board approved plans for the building last April, concluding that its design complied with the city's master plan for beach redevelopment, called Beach by Design.
The store is under construction at 400 East Shore Drive, formerly a parking lot and a one-story apartment building.
Beach business officials are welcoming it with open arms.
"We're thrilled to see all the development that's taking place on the beach, including the Walgreens," said Darlene Kole, executive director of the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce.
Walgreens has already built or converted about 200 of its stores to "well experience" stores, including dozens of locations in Chicago and Indianapolis. Many of them have the following features:
• Groceries, including fruits and vegetables, meats, prepared salads, sandwiches and wraps.
• Enhanced beauty department displays featuring prestige and niche cosmetic, skin care and hair care brands.
• Health care clinics staffed by nurse practitioners.
Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.