Greater City Providence

CVS in Edgewood, Update

CVS has responded to concerns about their proposed store in the Edgewood section of Cranston offering a “colonial” design alternative, which does not address many of the issues concerning the community, or taking 24-hours off the table.

The above renderings (courtesy of the STOP CVS in the Historic Edgewood Neighborhood, Cranston RI Facebook page) represent the design consessions CVS is bringing to the table. This is instead of their typical beige dryvit box they plop down at most locations. This alternative design would also remove the large sign pylon (which would require Cranston zoning approval) and brings the landscaping and distance from neighboring properties in bounds whereas they will not need zoning variances.

According to an article in the Journal, company officials are also “considering” adding more windows and a pedestrian walkway across the 75-car parking lot.

Considering!?!!? a pedestrian walkway!?!?!??! CONSIDERING!?

OK, I have some harsh words for CVS in a second, but first, WHAT THE F*CK CRANSTON!? How in the world does your city’s zoning allow CVS to consider a pedestrian walkway? Like they can or cannot provide a walkway, whatever the hell they feel like, no big whoop. I’m well aware that Providence zoning is probably similarly weak (someone please cite for me where Providence requires pedestrian accomodations if it does so I can feel better), but I’m yelling at Cranston right now. Traffic is a problem that Cranston has, they are well aware of it, in fact the city is working on a traffic plan for the very intersection where this CVS is hoping to locate. Hey Cranston, you know a good way to fight traffic? ALLOW PEOPLE A WAY TO WALK IN YOUR CITY! My Maude, my head is exploding here!

OK, back to hating on CVS now.

You know what, CVS is a Rhode Island company, I really really really want to root for and be proud of and support local companies, but you know what CVS. I can’t. You suck. What is so hard about building this store to the street, providing pedestrian access, and creating a building that doesn’t look like a random box dropped down from space? This is your home. Why can’t you play nice? The Respect 4 Edgewood people aren’t being unreasonable.

I walk down the street to my local Walgreens on Atwells Avenue which is in a mixed use building, built to the street, with parking on the side partially shielded from the street and I’m happy to support this national chain. I like Walgreen’s, I feel warm and fuzzy about it because they built a nice store in my neighborhood. They didn’t feel the need to destroy the chracter of Federal Hill with a massive parking lot, and a huge ass sign, and drive-thru lanes wrapped around the damn building.

Yes, Walgreens went and did in Edgewood exactly what CVS is trying to do now, if I lived in Edgewood, I wouldn’t be feeling warm and fuzzy about Walgreens. CVS has a chance to poke Walgreens in the eye in Edgewood. They could either do what they are trying to do, create the same dreck that Walgreens did across the street. Or they could embrace the desires of their neighbors and create something that will create brand loyalty.

In the ProJo, CVS says this:

The so-called backup plan would reduce the store’s footprint to 10,000 to 11,000 square feet, [CVS spokesman Michael J.] DeAngelis said. “And because it’s a smaller store, we’d have less of a budget,” he said, “so we would not be able to include all the architectural flourishes and significant landscaping” of the other proposal.

I call Bullshit. Right here, I’m calling it, BULLSHIT! See the renderings above, those are the architectural flourishes they are saying they can’t afford with the “fancy” store.

First, that “nicer” design, makes me gag! Try again.

Second, you have the drawings right there. In fact, I’ve been to that store, in dozens of communities across the region. I’m sure they have a set of plans for various conditions they just pull out of their ass and puke onto a parcel in a random town. There’s no budget? That looks like “10,000 sq. foot corner lot Cape Cod Style with brick.” Wasn’t that on someone’s hard drive and printed out an hour before the meeting?


Third, you are ranked 18 on the Fortune 500. You can’t afford some design work? Really? How many stores do you open a year? Don’t you have architects on staff? Really?

Fourth, you can’t afford significant landscaping, Really? Number 18, Fortune 500. I ask, why do you hate Rhode Island? I seriously don’t understand. I’m not a business person, maybe I need a clue, I know there are bottom lines to be met, but do you really think your customers, your neighbors, don’t deserve better than this?

This is Respect 4 Edgewood’s take on the matter from their Facebook page:

CVS basically said that if residents back off, we can have the ‘prettier’ bldg & CVS won’t seek 24hrs AT THIS TIME. If we continue to fight them, CVS will build the original cheap ugly box AND pursue 24hr operation. Not like this new design is that much better. Still doesn’t address traffic issues at that dangerous intersection, still has sea of asphalt out front, still looks like Hoxie4Corners….

CVS, I know you can do it. Look at the Providence Place location. It is lovely, and you didn’t make the mall knock down Macy’s so you could have a parking lot. Come up to Federal Hill to see the Walgreen’s we have here. It may not fit into your assembly line way of plopping down stores willy-nilly, but let me tell you, this is the future.

Sure, I’m the no-car owning, walk everywhere, ride the bus weirdo, but my ranks are growing. People are looking for community, for places where they can walk, for not having to depend on their cars and oil (the foreign or gushing into the Gulf variety), for not having their neighborhood look like every other neighborhood on the planet. Walgreens sees the writing on the wall, they just bought Duane Reade giving them a big foot into the urban marketplace.

CVS, why not make Edgewood your village prototype? Prove to Rhode Island you love us. Build a next generation store here, with sidewalks, and windows, and bike racks. Give it a whirl. I think you’ll find your customers will like it, and you’ll have made some people feel warm and fuzzy. Making your customers feel warm and fuzzy about you is gold!

Related: CVS in Edgewood

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • CVS just got their way with a similar set-up in Coventry. They bought out an older strip mall, demo’d it, dropped in a “colonial” store and are razing the other store for a huge parking lot. All this on a corner where people (especially teens) walk quite often. I cannot fathom how a 75 spot parking lot would ever be fully utilized, and with the recent flooding of route 2 and other areas how a zoning committee would ever allow such a large paved swath to go in. I think Rhode Island is doing itself in, we apparently have no Urban Planners or Engineers with any sort of clue.

    So please, thank Coventry and its aspiration to be the next Warwick for letting CVS know they can do whatever the hell they want. CVS will not get my business.

  • Their revised mediocre façade proposals are lame, but don’t matter anywhere near as much as the placement of the building on the site and its relationship to the pedestrian realm, relationship to the street and neighborhood context, and the distances between their new building and the adjacent houses.

    Did the site plan change or did CVS just redecorate the original massing in an attempt to placate the neighborhood? These new renderings couldn’t have taken more than a couple of days to produce at most. Does anyone have a copy of the latest site plan that goes with these renderings? If so please post them.

  • @peter – i attended the june 2 planning & site review at city hall. yes, the ‘neighborhood-sensitive’ (CVS’ term) design is meant to pacify us. the site plan remains the same–the store will be set way back from Broad St, on what is currently the parking lot behind Rite Aid. the new parking lot will cover the entire area where Rocky’s & Rite Aid are now, plus the current Rocky’s parking lot. the revised site plans can be viewed at City Hall (CVS did not bring extra copies for us, go figure). except for a few tall trees along the side that abuts residences on Arnold Ave, it looks pretty much the same as their initial proposal.
    both CVS’ attorney John Bolton and their director of real estate Syed Husian were adamant that this is how the building *must* be situated on the property. any mention of urban planning, pedestrian access, neighborly interaction, etc., was met with incredulous stares, basically.

    @jef – just to clarify one thing, CVS has plans on file at City Hall for a 24ft electronic pylon sign, which you mention, but we were told at the June 2 meeting that no signage package has been officially submitted. so… apparently, that was just them messing around (?). we don’t yet know what kind of signage package CVS will actually propose. btw, you rock.

    in any event, this thing has not yet been approved. the Site Plan Review is continued to 9AM July 7, 3rd flr Cranston City Hall. all are welcome.

  • I worked for CVS back in the mid 1980’s. Even then everything they did in stores was cookie cutter and scripted.

    They could adapt any property to become a CVS store. They really threw their weight around even then.

    But they had plans for just about any physical layout. Seriously detailed plans.

  • This is what the code allows them to build. It just shows that Cranston as well as most other RI communities embrace a “one size fits all” style of zoning that is more interested in setbacks from the street and making sure there are enough parking spaces. The reason that CVS can “consider” a pedestrian walkway across the parking lot is because none is required. Cranston made a “neighborhood” zone that ALLOWS but does not REQUIRE buildings to be placed at the sidewalk. Therefore, why do it.

    CVS as well as every other chain entity (drug stores, restaurants, big box stores) use prototype stores for branding as much as efficiency of construction. Blame the golden arches for that one. While many do have regional types and some additional prototypes for special situations most are actually gravitating toward one distinct prototype to place in as many places as possible. They only adjust when there is opposition like you have in Edgewood or where zoning does not allow it. But as I said in a previous post…CVS has now presented an option that is pretty much variance free. So if you don’t like it…you are SOL.

    Walgreens is no more “pedestrian” friendly than CVS. They both use sophisticated modeling that takes in demographics, house hold incomes, competition, even cannibalization of their other stores, to determine how much a store in a certain location will bring in each year..its all about projected yearly sales from the box. They use that to determine how much store to build and what type of merchandise to stock it with. There are plenty of instances where the yearly sales and lack of competition will be so good that a special store like the space Walgreens took on Federal Hill will be justified. CVS has probably done the same thing someplace else. If Walgreens had several acres available on the Hill it would have gladly plopped down one of its prototypes.

    Duane Reed was bought because it was the cheapest way for Walgreens to enter the Metro New York market. Walgreens philosophy has always been to build into markets naturally not thru acquisition. But land and sf costs in NYC are exorbitant so they bought. That was the writing on the wall. CVS has been trying to buy Duane Reed for years. I am sure Tommy Ryan is not happy about losing out to them.

    In the end I suspect CVS will give in and put down 50 feet of additional concrete to allow someone to get from the sidewalk to the their front door. Hell, they may even pay for a bench to be put in. But they are going to make it sound like the most magnanimous gesture they have ever done when in fact they have probably already gone back to the “numbers” and figured they can afford it.

  • There is a pretty decent CVS in Andover, MA that fits in with the village center of the modern Main St. THere is a parking lot in the back as well as street parking in the front. No drive through, but I think they were open 24h.

    View Larger Map

  • Locations like the one in Andover and on Federal Hill are tenant spaces. The building was being built regardless. They are moving into an empty shell and have little input into the site conditions or the building facade. They are even limited to signage in most cases. In Andover the signage is white (not CVS red, always their preferred choice). Their first choice would be to build on empty land but they will take a tenant space if the numbers look good. If a parcel or parcels were to open up on a corner nearby they would be out of there in a shot.

  • Jef- In response to your comment that “Providence zoning is probably similarly weak,” Providence’s zoning and development regulations have gradually gotten better with respect to urban design. In most cases, they now require a building like this to be built right up to the sidewalk with entrances and transparency on the street. Parking is required to be to the side or the rear. Landscaping with canopy trees is requred. There are many more provisions. If they follow these regulations, a big CVS would fit in pretty well with the traditional urban fabric. The bigger issue is that when faced with these conditions, a company like CVS will threaten to walk away unless they can get variances or zoning changes. Then it becomes a standoff- neighborhood character vs. economic development and revenue. The question is, in tough economic times, whether the various powers that be can say no to a company like CVS that promises to invest a lot of money in a community.

  • They may threaten to walk away, but would not likely do so, since the nearest potential locations in any direction from this neighborhood would a half mile or more. Their objective is compete with Walgreens. The Norwood and Broad site is the only centrally located large site in this vicinity and its across the street from Walgreens.

  • I don’t seem to recall such furor when Walgreens did the exact same thing across the street a dozen years ago. People were just ecstatic to have them knock down the old derelict building that was on that site (I forget what it was now). The same thing may happen to this site if the two business there fold and abandon the building. I also don’t recall such design furor when the Rite Aide (that nobody goes to) was built on Cranston Street, in front of ALDI. In fact, right behind the Rocky’s/Rite-Aid building in question is an even uglier office building, built right across from the Norwood Ave school, that is rarely used much. How did that get built years ago? So much for “neighborhood character”.

    I doubt Rocky’s can survive much longer, which is a shame since Home Depot and Lowe’s are long treks away from this site. I also doubt Rite Aide would survive. The traffic through that store seems very low, and can’t be a big earner for the company. I’m surprised Rite-Aid hasn’t tried to re-build the site, especially considering how much they spent across the city on Cranston St.

    Personally, I question the need CVS to build here at all. There is already a 24 hour location a few miles south on Warwick Ave. There is also a Broad St. location a few miles north.

    When I lived in Edgewood a couple years ago, it wasn’t THAT inconvenient to drive to Warwick Ave in a late-night pinch, but walking would be impossible. So I guess this new 24 hour CVS would be a non-car-owner’s dream, but I disagree with making it 24 hours. I am o.k. with the design, but I think CVS could easily experiment with this design and make more people happy. They seem adamantly against this kind of thinking though. Look at the Barrington CVS on 114. It has a parking lot in front of it, while the Talbot’s anchoring the other end is built to the street.

    But Broad St/Norwood Ave is an extremely quite intersection after 10pm (when Walgreens closes). You plop a 24 hour CVS in there, and it will change the entire demeanor of the intersection. A lot of traffic from Washington Park and South Providence that goes to CVS on Reservoir Ave in Cranston, will now visit this new 24 hour Edgewood location, leading to much busier nights at that intersection. I used to live in Washington Park as well, and I (and many people I knew who lived there) would typically go to the Reservoir Ave location instead of Warwick Ave, and I am not sure why since it’s not closer). This new location would be the only close 24 hour pharmacy between Edgewood and Downtown.

    I say let them build the store, but add lots of trees in the parking lot (like Smithfield Commons did in Smithfield). Besides, it is EdgeWOOD, so adding more landscaping and trees would make it blend more in with the neighborhood’s character. But don’t make it 24 hours.

  • Bob, thanks for calming my nerves a bit about what would and would not fly zoning wise in Providence. Certainly the Walgreens on North Main, though not perfect by far, is far and a way better than the typical plan these types of stores often want to build.

  • Anybody from Edgewood ever plan on shopping there? I live on Norwood Ave and plan to never set foot in it. Good job CVS, pissing off the people you need to shop there is a brilliant idea

  • Unfortunately, there are always plenty of people who don’t care about development, or don’t understand what makes it good/bad, and all those people will happily shop there.

  • The Lt.Gov. lives a short walk from both stores. She should speak up and make sure this new store looks like it belongs. It’s directly across the street from a Gothic church in this 19th century neighborhood.

  • Further update from STOP CVS in the Historic Edgewood Neighborhood Facebook Page:

    Thanks to all who attended yesterday’s 5th continuation of Cranston’s City Planning & Site Review, regarding the proposed CVS Store at Broad & Norwood. The Committee has yet to sign off on the plans. Citing issues of traffic, site design, and signage as unsatisfied, the Committee continued the Site Review to August 4th, at 4:30 P.M. in Council Chambers at City Hall.

    There were a number of new faces in the room, those unable to attend previous 9AM Site Reviews, who shared their outrage for the first time. This served as a reminder to those of us who’ve been attending meetings since last spring that that our community still has a BIG problem with the concept of plopping a big box store into our quiet historic neighborhood.

    We made some headway, however. CVS agreed to install a bike rack, install a short wrought iron fence around a portion of the property, maintain the current width of the sidewalks and add period lighting to the site.

    Therefore, the issues that have been “resolved”, “semi-resolved”, or “pending” are now as follows:


    • “Standard” hours of operation, CVS is no longer seeking to operate 24 hours per day!
    • Agreement not to use the liquor license
    • Additional sidewalks on the CVS property for pedestrians
    • Windows added to the Norwood Avenue side of the building so that there is no longer a full blank wall
    • Improved landscape design
    • Bike rack close to the front door
    • Period lighting and “night sky-friendly lighting” for the site, low-voltage ground-level lighting along walkways
    • A low (under 4ft) wrought iron fence and/or hedge installed around portions of the property to direct foot traffic toward designated walkways, increasing safety and adding aesthetic appeal
    • Maintaining the current width of the sidewalks to preserve the “boulevard effect”


    • Design — While the new proposed building design is slightly more appealing to residents than the yellow & red box originally submitted, it was still called “terrible,” “ugly,” “inappropriate,” among other things, by residents at the meeting. We are trying to get more of a roof line or a better design (gables, shingles, dormers, etc) but CVS is very reluctant.
    • Signage — The originally proposed oversized LED electronic sign on the corner has been changed to a 20ft tall non-electronic sign with architectural elements to match the updated store design. We are still trying to eliminate additional signage pollution, including the 6ft x 8ft (!!) illuminated monument sign and its placement on Norwood Ave near the current bus stop.
    • Further improvement to landscaping design. One resident pointed out that the hosta plants proposed for the perimeter of the site will not survive in full sun, and that the so-called “shade trees” will have trunks about as thick as a soda bottle, and therefore won’t offer much in the way of shade.


    • Eliminate 10 parking spaces from the site. The City requires 65 parking spaces; however, CVS has requested 75 parking spaces. The City informs us that regulations stipulate a minimum amount of parking required but no maximum!
    • Bringing the building closer to the street with parking in the rear of the building. CVS does NOT want to move the building; the proposed building “is what it is” – CVS reps, specifically their attorney John Bolton, continue to threaten to build the Reservoir Avenue (yellow & red dryvit) style building if we continue to resist the newer design.
    • Eliminate dual drive through

    Safety and traffic issues still exist – intersection rated at a level “F” – which is a failing intersection! What is the impact of the CVS store at our already failing intersection??

    The next meeting will be in City Council Chambers, Cranston City Hall on August 4th, at 4:30 P.M. Join us to voice your concerns. Let’s not become complacent!

  • WOW! What work we have above. People are taking to talk bad about CVS when the original post contains swears. That is such a good way to make a point. Jef has no idea what he is talking about and yes, he needs a clue. Please stick to a subject that you know about. We have jobs on the way with revenues for the community but lets nit-pick. One of the points that you guys fighting over is a liquor license???? Really? I have yet to see one CVS that sells liquor in RI. You people should just buy the land and make it a park or you could add another cemetery.

  • So much drama! Get over it! I live a few streets away from that corner and I was PUMPED when I heard there would be a huge CVS there. That corner is not pretty already. The Brooks and the Rocky’s buildings look like big boxes, why cant CVS look like a box too? Just give me a big CVS where I can buy stuff and pick up prescriptions all day and night. Awesome! So convenient! Why cant it be 24-hour? I want 24-hour!

  • Update from Respect4Edgewood:

    Dear Friends and Neighbors;

    CVS submitted revised plans on 8/2/10 for review with the city planners
    Cranston City Council Chambers 4:30 today

    There have been a few modifications to the traffic signs and lane marking, landscaping, walkway lighting and the location of the monument sign on Norwood as well as some “clean up” of the drawings. No change to the roof-line.

    What is not clear in the drawings are – the fencing at the Arnold and Norwood corners and the bike rack.

    The city traffic engineer will be at this meeting, so we can expect to hear his concerns and what that means to the proposal.

    Please attend, if you can .

    There are two variances still needing approval of the zoning board, so there will be at least one more meeting after this.

  • More from Respect4Edgewood:

    Dear Friends and Neighbors;

    The Site Plan Review process is over. Thank you for your continued support.

    The SPR committee has approved the CVS proposal to be sent to the Zoning Board of the City Council. They must pass on the 2 zoning variances – Signage (too much and too tall) and rear yard setback on the eastern boundary. Meeting notice to nearby neighbors is required and the meeting will probably be early September.

    Though we lose our hardware store and the corner will be a “football field of asphalt” with islands of trees your involvement and support means;

    • No 24 hour store
    • No 35 foot electronic sign (now 20′ and PART of zoning variance sought)
    • No 35 foot high parking lot lighting ( 20′ period lighting instead)
    • A brick and clapboard building (colors gray and white)
    • More and better landscaping and barriers for neighboring property owners
    • Lighted pedestrian walkway
    • Fewer signs (though still more signage than zoning laws allow)
    • Existing width of sidewalks will be maintained
    • A heightened awareness of the city’s need to address traffic and safety issues at the intersection

    We will keep you informed on zoning board meeting as well as more detailed information on the signage plan.

    And the Journal has a story as well.

  • From Respect4Edgewood:

    Good afternoon friends and neighbors~

    Just a reminder….

    we need YOU to attend the Zoning Board Hearing tomorrow, Wednesday 9/8/10, at 6:30 PM at Cranston Council Chambers.

    This is our FINAL opportunity to show the City and CVS that we care about our neighborhood and want them to make the right choices for our Edgewood community. IF all our neighbors UNITE and attend this crucial meeting, we feel confident that we will be successful.

  • Usually I try not to read the comments on ProJo because they give me gas. But this one in response to a ProJo Blog post about the Edgewood CVS is great:

    What a bunch of babies CVS is.

    “Give us our signs or we will build the ugliest building you have ever seen. Then we will hold our breaths until we die.”

  • There are plenty of examples of CVS’s that are at least quasi-pedestrian friendly in this state. The one on Hope Street in Providence is built up to the street, and the one at the corner of Armistice Blvd and Newport Ave in Pawtucket is as well (though the entrance is far from the corner). This seems to be more of a city-zoning issue than a CVS issue.

  • Indeed CVS is not beholden to do anything better than zoning calls for, and zoning in Cranston seems to suck. However, zoning does not say CVS must drop a box from the sky surrounded by parking. As retailers such as Target, Walmart, Best Buy, and other are creating prototype stores for the urban environment, CVS, which is headquartered in the second most dense state in the country, continues to insist that their suburban box designed for a highway strip mall environment is the best they can do. Surely, they could follow the trend and use Rhode Island as their test market.

    Some stores are built to the street, some of that is re-use of old buildings, some zoning, some happenstance of that being the best way to fit their building and parking.

    Then again, it was CVS who decided it would be a brilliant idea to try to knock down the historic Pawtucket-Central Falls train station to drop yet another box from the sky when there is no end of under-utilized land in Pawtucket that they could have used.

  • On the other hand, the CVS built to the street on Hope was at the cost of a historic theater and the “along the street” is a big brick wall and they got a big parking lot put next to it anyway. It is an eyesore in a row of shops with inviting front windows and doors.

    The CVS on Armistice and Newport Ave is not really pedestrian friendly either, but part of that is the result of the City and the fact that Armistice and Newport are both so built for cars.

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