Walgreens in historic downtown Atlanta building to close in April

Pharmacy’s expected closure will leave a vacancy near Five Points
A rendering of the Walgreens pharmacy in downtown before it opened in the Olympia Building in 2016.

A rendering of the Walgreens pharmacy in downtown before it opened in the Olympia Building in 2016.

The Walgreens store at Five Points in downtown Atlanta, a landmark for its art deco design and iconic Coca-Cola sign on its roof, is expected to close next month.

The location at 25 Peachtree St. SE in the historic Olympia Building will close April 9, according to signs posted on the premises, a blow to downtown residents, Georgia State University students and workers who frequented the store, which has a pharmacy, and sells some groceries and other goods.

Encore Real Estate Development and Skanska renovated the Great Depression-era building for Walgreens and its design by architecture firm ASD |SKY won recognition from the Atlanta Regional Commission. The pharmacy opened in 2016.

March 16, 2017 Atlanta: Derrick Harrison walks past the Coca-Cola temperature sign near Five Points in downtown Atlanta on the way to work as the temperature dipped down into the twenties on Thursday, March 16, 2017. JOHN SPINK /JSPINK@AJC.COM


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Marty Maloney, a spokesperson for Walgreens, 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.

When the pharmacy chain decided it wanted to take over the long-vacant space they approached local residents first, said Kyle Kessler, policy and research director for the nonprofit Center for Civic Innovation and a downtown resident since 2006.

“They were interested in the community and not just coming in to do a business deal, but were interested in serving needs in downtown,” Kessler said.

The Walgreens design nodded to its nearly 100-year old history, with art deco signage keeping the vintage feeling of the facade.

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

In 2018, Walgreens launched a significant cost cutting effort and slashed hundreds of stores. The pharmacy chain extended that program through the end of this year. As of November, the company had cut 563 U.S. locations, according to a recent regulatory filing.

But the downtown Walgreens’ impending closure will leave a hole in the local community. Georgia State student Golden Uzoma, 20, frequents the store about once a week. She said she was shocked and sad to see it was closing, especially so soon after a RaceTrac store near the Georgia State dorms closed late last month.

Uzoma said students relied on RaceTrac and Walgreens for necessities. Fellow student Raymia Taylor agreed.

“They keep adding things like coffee shops and it’s just like we don’t need any more of that,” Taylor, 19, said. “We need convenience.”

The downtown Walgreens faced closure before. In January 2023, an online petition pushed back on the store closing because the location was “a crucial part of campus and downtown Atlanta,” the petition’s creator, Keylei Moss, wrote at the time. The petition garnered 765 signatures and dozens of comments echoing Moss’ sentiments.

Kessler, who lives a few blocks from the Walgreens, said that over the past year, he noticed dwindling inventory and fewer employees, but he noted that the store has faced challenges.

“I want to recognize, too, regardless of the circumstances, I understand ... the building has been damaged and that there has been criminal incidents around the store, across the street in Woodruff Park,” he said. “All those things obviously play in as well.”

The pandemic hurt downtown’s office and retail sectors and the city core does not have the residential base of other central business districts like Midtown and Buckhead. Many government and private sector workers continue remote or hybrid work schedules that have reduced traffic to nearby restaurants and retailers.

In a now-inactive posting to sublease the space, Walgreens said its master lease expires in June 2036, meaning that unless the company is able to get out of the contract earlier, it will be approving whatever business takes over the lease. Kessler noted that Walgreens may not welcome a competitor to its other stores, even though that may be what local residents need.

Flush with unused office space, the city is trying to convert some into residential units. On a corner opposite the Walgreens, the city wants to convert much of the 2 Peachtree Street tower into affordable housing.

Not far from Five Points, CIM Group is building the $5 billion Centennial Yards mixed-use development and a new development team has taken over the South Downtown project, which spans several blocks of historic buildings.

But a livable community doesn’t just need housing, it needs pharmacies, grocery stores and other retail that provides for daily necessities, and the city needs to make sure it’s attracting them, Kessler said.

“What can we do to help keep them around or make it where they see that potential on the horizon and they want to stick around?” Kessler said. “So that when this residential comes ... they can be profitable again or of service to the community and be a part of the brighter days ahead.”

- Zach Hansen contributed to this report

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