CVS to open store on Franklin Street, expand Rams Plaza location

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CVS will be opening next to R&R Grill at 137 East Franklin Street this fall.

With a new downtown location and larger store in Rams Plaza, CVS Pharmacy will significantly expand its presence in Chapel Hill in the coming months.

By late October, CVS hopes to open a new 14,000-square-foot store currently under construction at 137 E. Franklin St. The space has been vacant since Bank of America closed its downtown branch in September after 39 years in the eponymous Bank of America Center.

The opening will be followed by construction on an expanded, free-standing store to replace the current CVS space in Rams Plaza on Fordham Boulevard. That site is expected to be completed within a couple of years.

CVS spokesman Mike DeAngelis said the Franklin Street location will allow the company to solicit more business from UNC students.

“We have many stores throughout our chain that are located on or near college campuses, and we do very well at those locations,” DeAngelis said. “We’ll also carry products that cater to the college community.”

The Franklin Street store will become the closest of CVS’s three Chapel Hill locations to UNC’s campus.

And as that store opens its doors, officials at the Rams Plaza site will be finalizing plans for its expansion.

In a June 10 press release, the Kalikow Group, a developer at Rams Plaza, announced the planned construction of a 13,000-square-foot stand-alone store to replace CVS’s current 8,500-square-foot location in the shopping center.

The CVS redevelopment is part of a major renovation plan for Rams Plaza, which includes $1.5 million in recently completed upgrades to store facades and structures, parking areas and the shopping center’s courtyard.

“That project’s in its very early stages,” DeAngelis said. “We’ll probably begin the process of getting necessary approvals in 2014.”

But construction is already underway at the Franklin Street site, and some local business leaders said they’re excited to see a storefront that’s been vacant for nearly nine months finally being filled.

Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership Assistant Director Bobby Funk said keeping Franklin Street real estate occupied helps the downtown atmosphere.

“A new investment in a property that beautifies downtown — we’ll be excited about (it),” Funk said. “As soon as (CVS) gets close to opening, we’ll be reaching out to help in any way we can.”

But others who manage businesses on Franklin Street said they were concerned about the increasing number of chain stores downtown.

“We’re still in a state of shock, not just with (CVS) but Waffle House,” said Sutton’s Drug Store owner John Woodard.

“Thank goodness we have the soda fountain to absorb the damage it’s going to do to the rest of my business.”

But Woodard said while chains in town benefit from name recognition, they primarily compete with other chains in Chapel Hill — more than independent stores.

“It’s not like we aren’t used to it,” he said.

Contact the desk editor at city@dailytarheel.com.

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