Downtown Leadership Council weighs in on proposed CVS drugstore

Wednesday, July 24, 2013 | 10:09 p.m. CDT; updated 11:48 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 28, 2013

COLUMBIA — The fate of three buildings, two pharmacies and one creek are all under consideration as the city considers a proposal for a CVS pharmacy on Providence Road and Broadway. 

CVS submitted its proposal to the city July 1 to rezone the southeast corner of Providence and Broadway, which would allow the company to build a pharmacy on the property. CVS would demolish three buildings: the old ice house and the buildings housing McAdams' Ltd. and alleyCat Yoga. The proposed CVS would be across from a competing Walgreens pharmacy.

At an initial public meeting July 16 about the proposed CVS, attendees raised several issues such as the aesthetics, the changes to traffic, the covering of Flat Branch and the extension of Cherry Street.

The proposed CVS store has raised some concerns with members of the Downtown Columbia Leadership Council, which plans on drafting a recommendation to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Council member Pat Fowler, who lives downtown without a car, said at a leadership council meeting Tuesday evening that the proposed plan would be inaccessible for people without cars.

"The drive-thru entrance is a car-oriented development, and downtown is all about providing pedestrian accommodation," city planner Steve MacIntyre said Wednesday. "While we're not opposed to cars downtown, we would like to see any development in downtown primarily catering to pedestrians."

Council member Randy Gray said in an email Wednesday that the way people would exit the drive-thru onto the street is "unacceptable."

"A more appropriate development at this location might include a multi-story, mixed-use building with CVS on the ground floor," Gray said in an email.

MacIntyre said city planning under Metro 2020 called for multi-story, mixed-use buildings instead of the surface parking lot and single-use building that CVS is proposing. The CVS planning documents show the parking lot would be built over Flat Branch. MacIntyre said the proposed covering of Flat Branch is in direct conflict with previous city planning documents such as Metro 2020, Columbia Imagined and the Charrette Report. 

CVS is asking for rezoning and city help with off-site improvements, but MacIntyre said theoretically CVS might not need rezoning approval to build on the site, because the zoning could accommodate the building and parking lot design, but CVS would need city cooperation to build infrastructure changes off-site.

CVS also needs the city's cooperation because the city owns a parcel of land on the corner that is used for parking, but the proposed CVS plan would use that space for landscaping and water drainage. The plan also proposes using that space for a sign or piece of art for a gateway to downtown, MacIntyre said.

"I think there's probably a better gateway to downtown and campus than two pharmacies side-by-side, but ultimately this is a decision about appropriate land use," council member Brian Treece said Wednesday.

MacIntyre said the city is open to suggestions about what to do with the parcel, but CVS would not be able to dictate what ultimately happens on the site.

The proposal also has other infrastructure issues such as extending Cherry Street and adding a barrier on Broadway to prevent people from turning left from the drive-thru. MacIntyre said CVS proposes to pay for these infrastructure changes.

At the Tuesday meeting, MacIntyre said he was initially skeptical about the proposal, but he said there could be some traffic benefits.

A traffic study submitted with the proposal downplayed the issue of cars exiting the drive-thru onto Broadway, MacIntyre said. There might not be a difficulty with the exit if there is a physical barrier preventing left turns exiting the drive-thru, he said.

"We can't really rely on all motorists to voluntarily restrict themselves to a right out turn movement," he said. "It really does need to be enforced with a physical barrier."

The council chairman, Brent Gardner, said Wednesday the focus shouldn't just be on the CVS. He said because there are so many developments around this intersection including the African American Heritage Trail and the Lucky's Farmers Market across the street, the city should take a bigger-picture view of the corner.

"The city and public need to look at it as one big thing. Everything happening at the same time, at the same spot, and one of those things is the CVS pharmacy request," Gardner said. 

Pat Zenner, development services manager, said the next public meeting about the proposed CVS will be at the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting scheduled for Aug. 22.

Supervising editor is Zachary Matson.

CVS site plan

CVS has submitted plans for a proposed drive-thru pharmacy at Broadway and Providence Road.

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Jimmy Bearfield July 25, 2013 | 8:31 a.m.

"Council member Pat Fowler, who lives downtown without a car, said at a leadership council meeting Tuesday evening that the proposed plan would be inaccessible for people without cars."

Wow. I'm surprised that CVS would build a store where customers can't go inside. So what are all of those parking spaces for? Employees only?

(Report Comment)
Jack Hamm July 25, 2013 | 11:54 a.m.

I've met few people in Columbia more detached from reality than Pat Fowler; she lives in lala land. Still puzzled how she got on the Downtown Leadership Council

(Report Comment)
Richard Saunders July 25, 2013 | 1:37 p.m.

The world would be a much more peaceful place if everyone wasn't busy minding everyone else's business except their own. The idea that busybodies can dictate what kind of structure someone else can build on their own property, or if one drug store can be built across the street from another is insane.

Are all city people this dense?

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield July 25, 2013 | 1:54 p.m.

Jack, reread your post. You actually answered your own question.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 25, 2013 | 2:28 p.m.

Richard Saunders said,

"Are all city people this dense?"

Fool that I am, I will attempt an answer. In my experience the culture (shared values) of individual cities also plays a role. Cities don't approach situations in exactly the same way, any more than individuals do. Since somebody mentioned it, I think Columbia could do with less "La La Land." There isn't time to endlessly debate every issue.

As for having competing chain pharmacies across the street or on diagonal corners of some major intersection, that isn't unusual: we have that where I presently live, and I've seen it elsewhere. It may not make sense to some, but it obviously makes sense to the firms involved - or they wouldn't do it.

I've seen my share of cities. Some have even been located in the United States, and their citizens spoke English (or a rough approximation thereof).

(Report Comment)

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