Closing Walgreens to create west Madison food desert

Drugstore to close partially due to Verona Road construction
Closing Walgreens to create west Madison food desert

After a Madison Walgreens closes at the end of the year, a west side neighborhood will become a food desert.

The Verona Road location said it made the decision partly because of the construction just outside its doors that’s scheduled to take another couple of years. Residents in the Allied Drive community are concerned for the upcoming closure because it will leave them with virtually no options to buy food.

The neighborhood is considered a food desert. Residents have been using the Walgreens as a de facto grocery store in the past several years. Having the store within walking distance has made all the difference in the community, according to Selena Pettigrew, president of the Allied Dunn Marsh Neighborhood Association.

“A lot of people, they don’t have transportation, so it makes it kind of hard to get to a store,” Pettigrew said. “It just seems like a lot of things have been taken from us and nothing is being added.”

The city said it has been looking at options to help the neighborhood for a while now.

“We’re getting to work fashioning a plan to address this, which was something already under discussion but is now accelerated by the closing of Walgreens,” Mayor Paul Soglin said.

Soglin added an ethnic grocery store is on the table, with a potential size of between 15,000 and 40,000 square feet.

“There are a lot of opportunities there,” he said. “There’s a lot of vacant space.”

Soglin said he hopes to have a plan in place by 2015, but nothing would be implemented before Walgreens closes its doors on Dec. 30.

“It feels personal,” Pettigrew said. “People say, ‘Don’t take it personal,’ but how can I not take it personal? It’s affecting me, and my family and my neighbors.”

Soglin said the city may consider using a survey to gain feedback from residents about what they would like to see in a neighborhood grocery store.

Walgreens said in an email to News 3 that prescription files at the Verona Road location will be automatically transferred to the Raymond Road location, with no action needed from customers. The 15 employees currently working at the location will also be transferred to other branches.