REPORTS THAT RITE AID Corp. is interested in purchasing the vacant Farmers Supply Co. property in the heart of Westminster shows that city officials made the right decision earlier this year when they banned some kinds of businesses from the downtown business district. If the deal goes through -- and there is always the possibility that it won't -- a retail drug store will enhance this section of Westminster more than a 24-hour filling station would have.
A well-stocked drug store -- carrying a wide line of merchandise including medicine, greeting cards, cosmetics, snack foods and magazines -- would establish a much-needed retail magnet in the heart of the Carroll County seat. Unlike a filling station that only attracts people in automobiles, who then drive off to do their shopping, a pharmacy could also draw people on foot and would get motorists out of their cars.
Pedestrians are -- and have always been -- the key to Westminster's retail revitalization effort. The drug store will help bring them back to Main Street. It will attract Westminster residents because of its convenience. It also might attract shoppers who drive downtown and then park their cars to shop for clothes, grab a snack, borrow a book from the library or buy stamps at the post office. This is the clientele that will help revive Westminster's lagging commercial fortunes.
To ensure that Westminster's central business district remains pedestrian friendly, city officials must carefully examine any site plan for the Farmers Supply parcel. Pedestrian convenience should be more important than easy automobile access to the parking lot. And any store should be oriented toward Liberty Street so that pedestrians could reach it without having to dodge vehicles entering the property.
City officials should also ensure that the store's design blends in with nearby buildings. Although a filling station that businessman Jack Tevis had proposed earlier this year was the wrong concept for the property, he worked diligently to design a building as attractive as possible. City officials should expect nothing less from any other developer of this property. The last thing this corner of downtown Westminster needs is a store that looks like it belongs on a highway shopping strip.