Walgreens heralds return to Times Square with giant video screen, summer opening

DEERFIELD, Ill. Walgreen Co. has begun construction of what will be one of the most unusual drug stores ever built by the 107-year-old company, in what is surely one of the most visible locations on the planet.

After a decades-long absence, Walgreens will return to One Times Square with a unique, multistory retail center wrapped in a 17,000-square-foot video screen and catering to the estimated half-million pedestrians that walk through the district each day. The store is on track for a grand opening this summer, company spokeswoman Tiffani Bruce told Drug Store News.

“It will be 27,287 square feet. Actually, it’s looking now like it may be three levels, with some portion of each devoted to selling space, plus another couple of levels for service and stock,” Bruce explained today. “Right now, we’re still working toward the grand opening being some time this summer. We can’t narrow it down any more than that at this point.”

Located at the “Crossroads of the World” at the intersection of Broadway, 7th Avenue and 43rd Street, the new store will dramatically raise Walgreens’ profile in New York. After a gradual return to the city that has already seen the opening of more than a half-dozen stores, the grand opening at Times Square will also raise the chain’s store count in Manhattan to nearly a dozen units by mid-year, with new stores also nearing completion at Broadway and 97th Street and Third Avenue at E. 36th Street.

Walgreens’ top managers made a point of highlighting the pending Times Square incursion at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting earlier this month. “We were here 50 years ago, and we’re coming back,” said president and chief operating officer Greg Wasson. “Next New Year’s Eve we’ll all be watching the ball drop from the top of our building and in front of a powerful store, with some very powerful Walgreen signage.

“Not only do we get a great store, but … we’re getting 17,000 square feet of video wall to promote our store and brand, and to sell to our vendors,” Wasson added.

Walgreens’ return to Times Square goes hand in hand with the resurgence of the district, which for decades was better known for its seedy strip clubs and street hustlers than for the revitalized theater and nightlife district it has again become. The descent of Times Square was enough for Walgreens to call it quits in the 1970s, and its high-profile return marks a high point in the district’s remarkable turnaround.

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