The former Borders building in Downtown Crossing is being renovated into a new kind of Walgreens— one of three flagship stores the company is creating around the country that offer a mix of high-end groceries, adult beverages, beauty products and health needs.
On Wednesday, Walgreens representatives offered members of the media a sneak peek at the new building, located at 10-24 School St., at the corner of School and Washington streets.
Though the company has already opened similar flagship stores in New York City and Chicago, the Boston site presented a unique opportunity to blend old and new design styles in a building that is itself a mix of time periods.
“We respected the fact that this is a modern building attached to a very architecturally sound part of the building which is very old, and we are going to design the store with respect to that,” said Michael DeFazio, Walgreens' senior director of store concepts.
On the newer side of the building, on Washington Street, the style will be more modern, with silver, stainless and gray accents. The back side, with doors opening onto School Street, will incorporate a “richer” feel, with dark woods, brass accents and a restored sheetrock ceiling—a nod to the Five Cents Savings Bank that once occupied the building.
The old bank safe is being renovated to recreate the look of the former bank president’s office, based on photographs of the room, with a fireplace, woodwork and cabinetry built to resemble the look. The Walgreens Historical Foundation will provide items from the company’s history—old mortars and pestles, scales and products from the early 1900s—that will be placed on display in cabinets inside the remodeled office, which will be open to the public, DeFazio said.
Outside the building, there will be a seating area where the public can gather—a component that was incorporated into the design by request of city officials.
“One of the things the mayor is delighted with, with the folks at Walgreens, is you make a suggestion like this [the outdoor seating] and they adapt to it right away,” said Peter Meade, director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority.
Meade noted that Mayor Thomas Menino referred to the store as “gourmet Walgreens.”
The “Up Market” grocery side of the store will feature an adult beverage section on the mezzanine and on the lower level there will be a sushi chef station, juice and smoothie bar, frozen yogurt section, barista bar selling high-end pastries and fresh produce and dry goods.
DeFazio said Walgreens was committed to working with local vendors as much as possible. About 20-30 local vendors are represented in each of their flagship stores in New York and Chicago.
The adult beverage department will feature 500-700 varieties of wine from everyday to higher end stored in a temperature-controlled area as well as an “extensive selection” of beers, DeFazio said.
Among the unique features of the beverage section will be a large, interactive screen covering the length of one wall that takes customers on a trip through the vineyards of the country, explaining how wine is created, DeFazio said.
There will also be an interactive “Beverage Wizard” computer, where customers can input the type of event and number of guests—cocktail party, barbecue, holiday dinner, etc.—and find out what they should serve and how much they’ll need, all printed out on a slip of paper they can take with them for reference.
The health and beauty side of the store will also incorporate interactive technologies.
At the Look Boutique counter, customers can take a digital photograph of their face and “try on” various cosmetics—lipstick, eyeliner and mascara—to see how they look before buying. They can also share the images on Facebook or by email, DeFazio said.
The beauty area also features a full-service nail salon and interactive skin care station.
Over at the pharmacy’s “Express Rx” kiosk, customers can input their prescription number and personal information, scan their credit card and quickly pick up medications without having to wait for a pharmacist.
If they want a more personal experience, there is that option as well.
“This [design] represents our true Well Experience pharmacy, where we actually take the pharmacist from the back of the pharmacy and bring him out front to sit down and interact with the customers,” DeFazio said.
The Walgreens representative declined to estimate the total cost of the renovation project but said the company was aiming for a spring 2013 opening.
The grocery side of the store will be open 24 hours, seven days a week, while the pharmacy hours will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.