By David Denson, Gary Crusader
Representatives from the Miller business community, along with local and state officials, are seeking to stop the closure of the Walgreens store located in Miller at 801 S. Lake Street.
Earlier this month, Walgreens announced they were closing the store at the end of the month, and the news of the closing has prompted several city and state officials to send letters in opposition.
Councilwoman Rebecca Wyatt (D-1st) represents the district where Walgreens is located and says the residents of the district depend on the services provided by Walgreens.
“The 1st District includes neighborhoods of Aetna, Glen Ryan and Miller. The residents in each of these neighborhoods depend on that Walgreens store. Walgreens is a major pharmacy in the city. The city just lost a Walgreens store on 5th Avenue. To lose another Walgreens is a significant hardship for us,” stated Wyatt in her letter.
Indiana State Rep. Charlie Brown noted with the closing, the city would be left with one Walgreens in the city. “This will leave a single pharmacy within Gary, making it more difficult for residents to fill their prescriptions or do their shopping at a convenient location,” Brown wrote in his letter to Walgreens’ officials.
“In my 35 years as a member of the Indiana House Public Health Committee, our state legislature has worked to ensure a positive retail environment for pharmacies like the Walgreens store in Gary. We made this a top legislative priority because access to retail stores, such as Walgreens, contributes significantly to the health and well-being of our citizens,” Brown continued.
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson was advised of the decision to close the Miller location in late May.
In addition to learning about the closing, she was also informed that the Walgreens located at 2500 Grant St. was transitioning from a 24-hour store to regular hours. “This decision comes less than a year after your closure of the Wabash Avenue Gary store. That building remains vacant. I am appealing to you to reconsider the decision to close the Lake Street store and reduce the hours on Grant Street,” Freeman-Wilson wrote in her letter to Walgreens’ officials.
Freeman-Wilson continued, “I have always appreciated Walgreens commitment to the underserved communities. If the store closes, there will be only one store in a city with 80,000 people and over 50 square miles. The existence of only one store would be compounded by reduce hours on Grant Street. However, that is not the basis of my appeal.”
According to the mayor, the Lake Street Walgreens is a part of the Lakefront District of Gary’s Northside Development initiative. House Enroll Act 1144 will allow communities along the Northern Commuter Transit District to install double track, and along with the support of the RDA, create Transit-Oriented Development stops along the line.
If Walgreens stays, they will benefit from the increased consumer traffic that is generated from the project.
A meeting has been scheduled for June 15 with Freeman-Wilson, community leaders and officials from Walgreens to discuss the issue.