Walgreens adapts to a Greek Revival village

When Walgreens anticipated it would have a hard time gaining permission to build a drugstore at the main intersection in Poland, Ohio, the company sought advice from a longtime local resident, Robert A. Mastriana. Mastriana, an architect and a consultant to the village’s Architectural Review Board, told the chain that it would have to build something far better than its usual store. The 2,900-person community several miles south of Youngstown previously prevented a Rite Aid from being built on the prominent albeit bedraggled site, and resistance to national chains has continued to run strong in the two-century-old village.

In the end, Mastriana, an admirer of northeast Ohio’s Greek Revival architecture, donated his time to design a Walgreens building that would make the heavily trafficked location more attractive. The design won approval from the Board of Appeals and is now under construction by Visconsi Companies. The Walgreens building stands just 20 feet back from the road, helping to define the streetwall, and it has suggestions of Greek Revival style, “which is Poland,” according to Mastriana.

The chain prohibited any deviation from its typical interior layout. “We could not alter the footprint of the store,” says Mastriana, design partner in The 4M Company in nearby Boardman Township. However, Visconsi Companies, which has erected about 40 Ohio Walgreens stores, allowed Mastriana to add four-foot-wide appendages to the building’s exterior, creating proportions similar to those of an old-fashioned Main Street store. Those projections will house seven-foot-high display cases — like the showcase windows that merchants used decades ago — and the local historical society will be invited to use them for displays. Because the cases will open from the sidewalk, not from the store’s interior, Walgreens will be able to line the store’s inside walls with uninterrupted shelves of merchandise, which is the standard format.

Mastriana argued that to be part of a traditional streetscape the building should be two stories high, with offices above the selling area. The chain decided against offices but did allow the store to be twice the usual height, with windows punctuating the upper level. The high windows will bring natural light into the store during the day, Mastriana says, and will let interior illumination spill outward at night, enhancing the street’s atmosphere. A 55-vehicle parking area will take the form of a landscaped court enclosed by wrought iron and brick pier fencing. Total development cost, including the 14,560-square-foot building and its land, is estimated at $4.5 million. Completion is expected late this year.

Greek Revival touches for library

The Walgreens is only the latest effort to maintain the coherence of Poland, a town with its roots in the early nineteenth century. The still-admired Greek Revival buildings also provided inspiration for Mastriana and his company about four years ago when they designed a new $6.8 million facility for the Poland Public Library. The 35,000-square-foot library project could have overwhelmed its neighbors on South Main Street, but Mastriana fit the building in by breaking the main facade into a series of segments, each about the size of a gable-front house. The largest gabled segment is a historic building constructed in 1846 — the dormitory of the Poland Union Seminary long ago. Three new temple-front projections, containing program areas for young children and teenagers, line up with the 1846 building. “There’s enough variation to tell which was the original building,” Mastriana says. In between the projecting structures are trellised outdoor areas. A domed cupola above the librarians’ main-floor desk brings in natural light from above.

In the building’s lower level are a meeting room and Chapters Cafe, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and banquets. The cafe makes the building even more of a gathering place, according to Mastriana, and it also contributes to the library’s bottom line through a profit-sharing agreement. Because of the cafe’s success — “it’s becoming the number one banquet and catering place in the region,” according to Mastriana — other future public libraries in the system are also expected to feature cafes.

When New Urban News circulated photos to a number of traditional architects, the biggest concern raised was about the repetition of the three new projecting elements. Some renowned buildings do have multiple segments lined up in succession — a good example is found at the University of Virginia, where a series of classical pavilions by Thomas Jefferson face the lawn; there, each pavilion employs a different classical order, generating a subtly varied presence. The three identical projections in the Poland library strikes some designers as repetitious. Nonetheless, the configuration gives the library a rhythm and proportion that harmonize with old Greek Revival buildings nearby. Locally, the library has been well received. “This is one of the smallest communities in the Youngstown library system, but it’s third in circulation,” Mastriana notes. To judge for yourself, visit www.libraryvisit.org and click on “The New Poland Library.” u