Altoona City Council will soon consider an ordinance to rezone a downtown square block to accommodate construction of a Walgreens drugstore.
The ordinance, introduced by Councilman Bruce Kelley, to change the 700 blocks of Chestnut and Lexington avenues from central business to light industrial seems to have the support of at least a majority of the council.
A development partnership of Mark Figurelli and Dan Lawruk wants the rezoning so it can build the drugstore in the middle of the tract. The existing regulations on the tract require buildings to touch the sidewalk, to keep the traditional downtown look.
The city planning staff urged the developer to comply, to match nearby projects now under construction by the city Water Authority and Altoona Lung Specialists.
But the partnership insists on centralizing the building, arguing to individual council members that the city risks losing the project otherwise on that semi-blighted block, Kelley said.
The tract is on the edge of downtown, and across Seventh Avenue is a suburban-style shopping center, so the request is reasonable, Kelley said.
The planning staff pointed out that there are Walgreens in other cities built against the sidewalk, including ones with drive-up windows like the one the store here would rely on to help generate business from nearby Altoona Regional Health System.
But the company would need to build a more expensive custom-design for that to work, said Councilman Mark Geis.