Closure of downtown Walgreens upsets students, local officials

Walgreens has the lease for the space through 2036 and still has not found another tenant
A view of Walgreens in the historic Olympia building in downtown Atlanta on Tuesday, April 2, 2024. (Arvin Temkar /



A view of Walgreens in the historic Olympia building in downtown Atlanta on Tuesday, April 2, 2024. (Arvin Temkar /

Shelves are emptying, merchandise is deeply marked down – by this time next week, the downtown Walgreens in the historic Olympia Building will be closed.

It’s a decision that has been met with disappointment by local students, city officials and downtown leaders.

The Walgreens at 25 Peachtree Street SE is closing April 9, leaving thousands of people who live, work and study in downtown without close access to a standalone pharmacy, grocer or convenience store.

And it’s unknown who will take over the space in the Olympia Building — a landmark for its art deco design and iconic Coca-Cola sign on its roof — which sat vacant for years before Walgreens opened there in 2016.

Last year, downtown had more than 33,000 residents, according to downtown business coalition Central Atlanta Progress (CAP). The organization also estimates the area saw an average of about 195,000 daily visits in 2023.

Atlanta City Councilmember Jason Dozier said in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he was “profoundly disappointed” by the pharmacy’s decision to close its store, “particularly as it has been one of the few retail options available to Downtown residents, including the tens of thousands of students attending Georgia State University.”

“This closure not only restricts access to essential goods but also disrupts the convenience this store has offered our community. I implore Walgreens to reconsider this decision,” he wrote.

Downtown for years has lacked some of the amenities that make a neighborhood attractive, particularly grocery and other retail stores. While Walgreens is primarily a pharmacy, it did sell some groceries and household goods, and was within walking distance for many residents, students and workers. The closest replacements are the CVS in Peachtree Center and the Express Drugs on Edgewood Avenue.

Walgreens has the lease for the space through the end of June 2036, according to a now-inactive posting to sublease the space. It is Walgreens’ responsibility to find a new tenant for the location.

“We are currently marketing this site and working with the city to do so, but do not have a replacement tenant lined up yet,” said Marty Maloney, a spokesperson for Walgreens, on Tuesday.

But A.J. Robinson, president and CEO of CAP, doesn’t think it will be a hard space to fill and said the impact of the Walgreens closing will be “incredibly short-term.” He noted part of the attention placed on this closure was because of its location in the Olympia Building.

“Everybody knows where it is and so you don’t have to spend a lot of time advertising; it’s got great visibility and with a Coca-Cola sign on top of it,” he said. “Someone will find this to be [an] extremely attractive opportunity for either another store like Walgreens or maybe some kind of food operation.”

A view of Walgreens in the historic Olympia building in downtown Atlanta on Tuesday, April 2, 2024. (Arvin Temkar /


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Several students from Georgia State University are dismayed that there is not another store set to replace the Walgreens.

“A convenience store in the epicenter of my campus closing is very inconvenient,” said Georgia State junior Logan Smith.

“There should be something there for me to be able to purchase things that I need in terms of necessities or even things that I don’t need like snacks,” he said.

Students said the best current alternative is a Publix on Hank Aaron Drive, especially after the RaceTrac near the Georgia State dorms closed in February. But taking trips there takes them away from their classes to get small groceries and medications.

Students without vehicles also have to take the campus shuttle to get to the Publix, which can take more time.

Alexis Scoggins from Snellville, a freshman at Georgia State living on campus, said she has relied on the Walgreens to get her prescriptions.

Walgreens said the prescriptions from 25 Peachtree St. are being transferred to another location about a mile and a half away.

When the pharmacy initially posted signs last month stating that it was closing in April, Maloney called the planned closure a “difficult decision.” He said “existing footprint of stores, dynamics of the local market, and changes in the buying habits of our patients and customers” were factors.

The Walgreens at 25 Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta will be closing its doors on April 9.

Credit: Mirtha Donastorg

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Credit: Mirtha Donastorg

Atlanta City Councilmember Amir Farokhi, who represents the area of downtown where the Walgreens is located, said in a statement that the pharmacy chain paused its decision to close this location last year.

“Perhaps this was inevitable but it remains disappointing as there are few retail options Downtown. Indeed, Downtown still lacks a full grocery store. As Downtown adds more residents, I expect to see different decisions made by retailers,” Farokhi wrote.

Downtown revitalization efforts

Serial entrepreneur and founder of the Atlanta Tech Village David Cummings, who recently spearheaded a purchase of 10 blocks in South Downtown, said Walgreens may have faced business challenges because a lot of its consumer base was GSU students.

“Students quite often… would come in and then they would leave on the weekends, and they would leave on the holidays in the summertime. And so it’s hard to have a business like that,” Cummings said. He thinks downtown needs thousands more people living downtown.

Robinson agrees and says more residents will help drive the demand to make the neighborhood more livable.

“That will create a demand for retail, for nightlife, for amenities,” Robinson said. But he said there is a chicken or egg problem.

“Do you do all the amenities and then fix up and people come? Or people come and then you have to do all the fix up?”

While it is still unclear what will replace the Walgreens at the Olympia Building, the space will play a part in a larger vision to see downtown evolve into a place where people want to live.

Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development arm, recently issued a public call seeking advice from grocery operators and developers on ways to address food access throughout the city, including downtown.

Downtown hasn’t had a big box grocer since Kroger shuttered its location across from City Hall in 2005. The Publix that opened last year in Summerhill is now downtown’s de-facto grocery store, despite being roughly a mile south of City Hall.

The hope for a grocery store in the core of downtown has been placed in Centennial Yards, the $5 billion redevelopment of the Gulch near Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Brian McGowan, the head of the project, said his team is in discussions with all of the major grocery store brands.

“They’re all interested in being here,” he said. “We have a couple of sites where we think they could be ideal, so within the next two years, I think you’ll see an announcement like that being made.”

- Zach Hansen contributed to this reporting.

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