I’ve been hearing the same refrain lately when it comes to less than stellar development proposals in Providence, ‘it may not be great, but it is better than what is there now.’ The McDonald’s and Family Value in Olneyville is cited as better than the vacant lot that is there now. The LA Fitness on North Main is seen as better than the vacant building that is there now. And on it goes, there’s a defeatest attitude around here about having nice things.
As CVS starts to expand into Washington State, one Seattle neighborhood saw the company’s proposal and asked if they could build something better. Unlike CVS’s recent store back here at home in Edgewood, the company building the new store, The Velmeir Cos., said, ‘sure, let’s figure it out.’
The original proposal was for a one-story CVS at what the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce describes as a high profile corner is Seattle’s Uptown neighborhood.
The DJC describes the new proposal:
The structure at 531 Queen Anne Ave. N. will have 16,000 square feet of retail space, mostly for the pharmacy, with 32 apartments above and 62 parking spaces underground. A small retail space along Mercer Street could be a food court.
The local neighborhood association, the Queen Anne Community Council, pushed the developer for a mixed-use structure after first being presented with the one-story single-use plan.
Geza de Gall, vice president of Pacific Northwest real estate for Velmeir
“It was pretty natural for (the project) to evolve to its present state,” [Geza] de Gall [vice president of Pacific Northwest real estate for Velmeir] said. “The community played a large part in helping guide us down that path.”
So different than the way the CVS in Edgewood played out.
Marty Kaplan, an architect and chair of Queen Anne Community Council’s Land Use Review Committee, said this project shows dedicated neighborhood groups can play a positive role. Too often, groups oppose a project but don’t give feedback on how to make it better.
Part of the problem in Providence is the late stage at which we see so many proposals and the City so often shrugging their shoulders and saying, ‘yeah but, economic development…’ Look at how much more economic development Seattle got by working collaboratively with community groups and the developer.
Another problem in Providence though is bizarre elitism, heaven forbid a CVS come into the neighborhood, we’d rather have a bespoke organic cafe that no one will ever go to… In the Olneyville case, I’m not opposed to the prospective tenants, I’d probably even go to the Family Dollar on occassion, it is the form that is a mess. Build to the street, put some badly needed housing on top, situate the parking so it can be built on later if conditions change (even less driving, more density needed) and the Olneyville project looks great.
This project started as a generic drug store you could find anywhere in the country, but after months of collaboration it now reflects the architectural style of the neighborhood and uses the maximum density allowed on a site that is just steps from a busy RapidRide stop.
Providence is not Seattle of course, conditions in each city are very different, but we’re not in a position where we have no reason to believe that better than nothing is the best that we can do.