Jul 29, 2014

Brennan: Walgreens, Key Food Negotiating Possible Collaboration

The assemblyman said the drugstore mega-chain is in talks with a local grocer to share the space at 589 Prospect Ave.

Brennan: Walgreens, Key Food Negotiating Possible Collaboration

The signs have been ripped down, but there's still hope for a Key Food at 589 Prospect Ave.—at least in part.

Assemblyman Jim Brennan confirmed Monday night that Walgreens—tentatively slated to open its doors in the former Key Food space next spring—is in the process of negotiating with a nearby Key Food to collaborate on a dual pharmacy and grocery store that would meet the demands of residents, who for months have been waging war against the drug chain through rallies, petitions and pledges to boycott the store.

But Brennan warned that discussions with the pharmacy giant are nascent.

"There is not a decision or a completed negotiation yet," he told the crowd of roughly 50 residents assembled at Holy Name of Jesus Church for the latest meeting of Green Beans not Walgreens, a community movement dedicated to ensuring that fresh produce is brought back to Windsor Terrace.

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"We do not know what is going to happen. But we do know they are talking to each other," he said, adding that more information should be available by the end of October.

This is a sea change from Walgreens' stance only a few months ago, when representatives dismissed requests from elected officials and community members to consider sharing the space with a grocery.

Lauren Elvers Collins, co-founder of the Windsor Terrace Alliance, attended an initial meeting with Walgreens officials in June, and came away less than optimistic about the company's willingness to work with the community.

"I didn't get the sense in June they were interested in looking into the grocery option," she said. "It does seem like they've changed their approach dramatically."

If Walgreens has changed its mind, it may be because Windsor Terrace is sending a message that has become impossible to ignore.

Almost 5,000 residents—representing 60 percent of the Windsor Terrace population—have signed a petition in protest of Walgreens, said Ryan Lynch, a Green Beans organizer and member of Community Board 7.

The group has also released a list of demands, specifying what exactly it wants to see in a grocery store, and began publishing a bi-weekly newsletter called the Green Beans Gazette to keep the community apprised of the latest news from the front lines.

But Lynch reminded the crowd that the war has not been won.

“The theme of this evening is that it's working, but we’re not there yet," he said.

"We need to keep the pressure on them in the weeks and months ahead.”

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