Pharmacy hopes to open at site of closed Clement market

by Paul Kozakiewicz

A new tenant is seeking to call the vacant supermarket at 32nd Avenue and Clement Street home.

CVS Caremark has signed a lease with the Fresh and Easy corporation to take about half of the long-closed market for its pharmacy operations. If the SF Planning Commission signs off on CVS' Conditional Use Permit, the chain store could move into the space in the first half of 2011.

Fresh and Easy, which will occupy slightly more than half of the space at the site, has not announced when it would open its convenience store. Although there are many stores in Southern California, Fresh and Easy's plan for Northern California is to line up enough locations to make a centralized distribution center in the Central Valley feasible. The corporation has been leasing sites in Northern California in preparation of launching service.

The CVS pharmacy will occupy the northern half of the store, which originally opened as a Safeway, and then was turned into an Albertsons, which closed about five years ago. The site has been vacant since then. Fresh and Easy responded to graffiti and vandalism complaints by erecting a fence around the perimeter of the site.

About 60 people attended a preliminary community meeting at the site to explain the CVS plan on June 24.

On hand to explain the new plan was Holly Grzywacz, the director of development for the Landmark Retail Group, a firm that clears the way for the development and construction of new CVS locations. She said most locations are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., but approval to stay open 24 hours would be sought from the Planning Commission so CVS would have the option of staying open longer if customer service warranted such a move.

That brought about a strong rebuke from Jim Argo, president of the Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association.

"We'll fight you on that," Argo warned.

The CVS would occupy about 14,000 square feet of space in the 36,500-square-foot building. There would be a small 200-square-foot room for minor medical examinations and treatments, such as taking a culture for strep throat.

There would be alcohol sales at CVS, but that is a minor part of CVS' business, Grzywacz said. There would be one delivery truck a week using the site's loading dock. About 25 employees would be hired to run the operation.

According to Grzywacz, CVS is designed to stand alone, in case there are any problems with Fresh and Easy opening. She said CVS could take over the master lease for the site and contract with another firm if Fresh and Easy is unable to perform.

"I've never seen them back away from a project," Grzywacz said about CVS when asked about the unknown fate of the other half of the supermarket site. But, she added there is a good business synergy with a grocery store adjoining CVS.

The corporation has signed a 25-year lease, with another 75 year's worth of options. Currently, there are more than 40 CVS locations in California.