Neighbors appeal CVS approval

June 23, 2008
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CVSThe Old Northside Neighborhood Association is fighting an administrative approval of plans to build a CVS pharmacy at the southeast corner of 16th and Meridian streets. The Metropolitan Development Commission will consider the appeal at its meeting on July 2. Among the group's concerns: The plans don't include an entrance at the intersection, and the approval doesn't include a stipulation that customers leaving the store's drive-through must turn right onto 16th Street. The DPW intends to allow only right turns, said Jeff York, a senior city planner. As for the other issue, CVS has a security concern about adding a second entrance, York said. The pharmacy's entrance is planned for the rear, facing the store's parking lot. The neighborhood group wants a layout more friendly to pedestrians.
  • it wont take extra energy to walk to the parking lot to get into the building. no
    offense, but this thing is a HUGE improvement on the run down IHOP. I want
    to see this built.
  • I agree, a more pedestrian friendly entrace along the sidewalk would be ideal and perfect, but I agree, this is a major step for CVS to alter the look of their store to fit in with the neighborhood. They don't like to change it up much. Why couldn't the entrace be at the intersection and people park in the back and just have to walk along the sidewalk for 10 feet then 10 feet to their car. Lets encourage walking. Put the entrance up front, and let those who drive have to walk.
  • Oh, and lets also make sure that those windows up there are actual windows that should have real apartments in it (HA! Yeah right)
  • With the big fight between Bill Mays, National City and others over this site, this site may never be developed.
  • MikeW, I agree with your comments about encouraging people to walk, but in no way did CVS alter the look of their store to fit in with the neighborhood.

    This is a CVS at 16th and Meridian in Indianapolis, 2008, not the general store and saloon across from the OK Corral in Tombstone, AZ, 1881.

    I applaud the neighborhood group for pushing for more-excellent, pedestrian-friendly urban design.
  • So there's a CVS on the east side, built up to the sidewalk so you have to walk around the building to get inside. And then there's a suburban Walgreen's on the westside, where you can park right next to the door... I'm going to the Walgreen's. And I think a lot of other people will too.

    Good intentions by the neighborhood assoc., but if it reduces the economic utility of the development, they're going to have to live with a rear-entrance.
  • Making requests like this is the whole point of neighborhood associations and planning departments. CVS should be concerned with making themselves more pedestrian friendly with high gas prices and a developing section of town with many, many walkers.

    CVS is a corporation that would easily be able to afford these types of changes, and the only way to get good demand is through regulations because business is not working for the benefit of the community but instead for the benefit of the company.
  • There is nothing pedestrian unfriendly about the site for a dedicated walker, in contrast to Mickey D's across 16th St. There is direct access (i.e. no need to cross drive aisles as at Mickey D) from the Meridian Street sidewalk to the front door. I'll just look at the extra hundred yards or so as a walking/fitness bonus for walking to CVS.

    Does anyone really believe that the majority of the customers at this store will be walkers? This isn't downtown (where there IS a pedestrian-oriented CVS); there aren't 50,000 people working within blocks. This site is at the corner of two busy streets where almost 50,000 cars pass by every day. The reality of it is, most of the customers will arrive by car even though they have the choice of walking or arriving on one of five buslines that pass within a block.
  • we really need a CVS if there is also a Walgreen's here? Maybe I don't frequent those kinds of stores that often, but I don't understand why we need both at the same intersection.

    I assume this also means the IHOP is going away. Could they include the Original Pancake House in the CVS? Then I'd be excited...
  • The IHOP eyesore certainly needs to be rehabilitated or removed, but another pharmacy in the neighborhood won’t increase the utility of neighbors and nearby residents. I live on the Old Northside and cycle, walk, and drive the neighbor everyday. It’s a beautiful area rich in character. I can wish for a produce store, butcher shop, or florist but know the nightly exodus north from the business district is a powerful incentive for any big box retailer like CVS. My hope now is for a pedestrian friendly design, parking in the rear, and a slew of bike racks in the front.
  • Hey Big Daddy, I do not believe any part of this site, or only a very small peripheral part of the site, is tied up in the Peyton Wells property. I don't think that will be an issue.
  • Kudos to the Old Northside for pushing for better design. Sure, most customers will arrive via car, but that doesn't mean that the neighborhood should forego the pursuit of better design anyway. There's no chance that a CVS of some sort won't get approved... it's just a question of whether it comes with a D- or a C+ design.
  • Thanks JAK for the clarification.
  • With CVS and Walgreens, 65 to 70% of sales is the prescription business, and the ability to build a drive-thru for pick-up of prescriptions is the #1 driver in new store strategy. Just think of all the downtown office workers heading north on Meridian after work and stopping for their drugs. Having the easy-in location will actually put them at an advantage over Walgreens which is a left turn in. Like it or not, it is the traffic counts (car) on Meridian that is driving this real estate play. CVS got the drive-thru they needed, so kudos to the neighborhood group for standing your ground on what you want.
  • Someone else said it well before. Something akin to this looks a recreation from a wild west theme park. Maybe since the neighborhood is on the upswing, CVS feels the need to recreate the feeling that customers will experience a holdup and shootout every hour on the hour.
  • I'd say put the entrance on the NW corner of the building & cater to the pedestrian! These tiny things actually do make a world of difference if we are truly trying to be word class or not. Cheers to the Old Northside people! However it would've been nice had they done the same for that lame Walgreens across the street.
  • In response to MikeW's comment about apartments on top, we had a similar situation in Seattle a few years back and Walgreen's actually partnered with a local housing group to provide housing above their store following community concerns over the design. Follow the links, that's a Walgreen's on the first level. Yes, the Seattle site is denser than 16th and Meridian (not much denser, though), but it shows that retailers with standard 'boxes' will change their designs if they want a site bad enough. Think bigger Indy.
  • Why didnt they protest the awful Walgreens at that corner??
  • Indy expat: Now we're talkin! Thanks for the links.
  • Marcus. They might not have known that the Walgreen's was coming, because there is no public notification process for Regional Center Approval. They knew about this one because CVS applied for variances. For some reason, Walgreen's didn't need to apply for variances, even though they didn't build at the established setback line on 16th, and their freestanding sign is more than twice as big as permitted in the North Meridian Corridor.
  • A dense low-income housing tax credit project on top of retail (as in the link provided) isn't the right thing for that corner, IMO.
  • Marcus, just what is so awful about the Walgreen's? Is it the wages and jobs created, the sales tax collections, or the removal of the eyesore/crime magnet North Meridian Inn that used to be there?
  • OMG! Thank you old northside for sticking up for what you believe in! How about the Community Development Corporation in that area stepping up to the plate for the neighborhood and the north meridian street plan? As far as that hideous Walgreens, why didn't the CDC step in. Is someone scared of the big name developers in that area? Partnerships are key - the CDC should have been the first to reveiw the plans and take it back to the neighborhood for thier input. ONS keep fighting! You now have to live with a CVS - not try to make it the best case scenario for the 'hood.
  • This is INDIANAPOLIS!!! Why would anyone ever expect any decent design here? There's no push for decent design, despite what the RC Design Guidelines would indicate. This is the way the DMD staff works. They push for higher standards, then someone over them negates their their comments and declares what an important piece of economic development a dinky little piece of crap like this is, and the project gets approved with not even a whimper from the City. They should be embarrassed that they never raised issue with the design, and it's a NEIGHBORHOOD GROUP that is planning the appeal. I've been on many planning staffs in my lifetime, and I'd be humiliated to be on that one.
  • I think someone has hijacked thundermutt's name. That is NOT the thundermutt that usually has such intelligent comments elsewhere.
  • I guess we all have our moments, Tiny Tim. I'm wearing my economist hat today.

    I honestly don't see why Marcus and givemeabreak and others resort to such hyperbole. In my view, the Walgreen's replaced an eyesore; there's no more parking on that site than before. Likewise with CVS. Neither is horrible or awful. The cookie-cutter tan-EIFS CVS stores at 38th & Emerson, 56th & Emerson, 71st and Binford...THOSE are awful. Likewise the cookie-cutter-tan-EIFS fake-gabled Walgreen's all over town. Awful. But...people spend money there, so it reinforces their store merchandising layout and they have little incentive to change it. In my view, what Walgreen's built and what CVS proposes is better than anything else they have in town in terms of site plan and materials/facade; no one has pointed to anything better in this whole debate here and on other development forums around town. (That is not to say that I find nothing to criticize about them, but that's not my purpose here.)

    As I've said in other posts on other subjects, these aren't likely to be hundred-year buildings...more like 20-30. So when it's economically feasible to do more dense development at that corner (i.e. when downtown creeps that far north across all the surface parking lots and junky buildings that still exist today), both Walgreen's and CVS will be functionally obsolete and ready for redevelopment. In the meantime, both are (or will be) generating pedestrian and car traffic at the retail node, both are generating jobs and wage taxes, both are generating sales and property taxes, and both are as convenient to public transportation and pedestrians as anything in Indianapolis can be.

    Economic activity is good; it beats the alternative. If you don't believe me, ask the people who are trying to revitalize any number of other parts of Indianapolis: South Madison's Miracle Mile, the Lafayette Road/Lafayette Square area, East and West Washington Streets, East 10th, and MLK.
  • This looks like the CVS they just built in Bloomington. I imagine it's just their new urban-friendly cookie-cutter design, though a door right at the intersection would be a nice change.

    Too bad CVS and Walgreens (who I assume will follow with their own urban-friendly cookie-cutter design) didn't do this earlier. Would have made downtown Brownsburg look better, cookie-cutter or not....
  • I've been reading others posts on here.
    Many fabulous opinions I have to add.
    However, developers go with demand and what makes economic sense. The rest is just extra.
    The fact that they built up to the sidewalk and added a sort of fake second floor is a pretty big win.
    However, people shouldn't just 'settle' for what they get if they can get better but people should not be snobbish either.
    The city of Indianapolis and it's citizens make profit for CVS.
    If anything, the city is doing it a favor so asking for little things like a second entrance or a more interesting facade shouldn't be too much to ask. It isn't like people are asking for a 45 story mixed-use tower.
    An entrance facing the intersection would make a lot of sense is pedestrian traffic increases but the security risks turn off the developers.
    I would like to see a health food store or grocer near this area for residents of the Old North and downtown but that probably doesn't make economic sense.. yet.
  • Thunder, are you basically saying any development is good development? I don't buy that, and if the majority of opinions on here and the actions of ONS are any indication than maybe the public at large is beginning to not buy it either. Those other areas are struggling because they aren't good markets for retail and/or they're already oversaturated with retail development. CVS wants a store here because the market is right for it, not because there's little regulation of how they do it. They'll build it, however the MDC requires it, within reason. The big question is how the MDC will react.
  • Socrates, it probably never will make economic sense. I really don't see Indianapolis ever becoming a viable urban place like so many other cities. Even the people who live downtown constantly oppose density or commercial intrusions in their neighborhood. It seems like the people who move to DT Indy just want the suburbs without the drive. This place will always be a backwater of hilljacks and strip malls. AT one time, I used to believe that we could somehow change that, but I've decided that I'm just going to sell my house at a nice profit and move somewhere else where there's actually some leadership and vision from the community and its leaders regarding density and mixed-use development, rather than just a small online community of folks who get it. This place is hopeless.
  • I'm saying that better development is good development. Where I seem to differ from some others here is in what goes into my better, what is within reason.

    Big-box retailers have standard product lines, standard merchandising layouts, and thus standard floor-plans for their stores. Tinkering with exterior look and feel (without moving the exterior elements too far) is possible, but reorganizing the interior layout messes with their store's ongoing operations and profitability. That's where I draw the within reason line. The store should have the maximum opportunity to succeed, not be hamstrung from the start with an inefficient or insecure layout.

    It is pretty obvious to me that a store generating jobs and tax revenue is a better occupant at 16th and Meridian than a crappy run-down restaurant and a state corrections office.

    I don't deal in it could be SOOO much better if only they changed everything I don't like about it or what we (I) REALLY want on that corner is (fill in blank).

    This is the deal on the table, and I really believe that it is (a) much better than what is there today, and (b) at least as good as the competitor's site across the street, and much better from a 16th St. perspective.

    A grocer, a mixed-use developer, or anyone else could have tried to put a deal together to locate there. But the market says a big-box national retailer is what makes sense there in 2008.
  • I mentioned this on SkyscraperCity and thought I would mention here. IF the neighborhood group had required the same from Walgreen's, I wouldn't be so pessimistic about the prospect of this being redesigned. HOWEVER, since Walgreen's (and McDonald's for that matter) was allowed to ignore the corner of the street and CVS is at least making an attempt to build to the ROW, I don't see the neighborhood grouip being successful. Granted, I agree with the thinking and an entrance should be at the corner, but it is very tough to get retailers to include second entrances in inner-city developments due to the theft and crime.

    AND, I am sure I am in the minority, but I will hate to see IHOP gone. Yes, its a nasty building with even nastier food, but that building is almost iconic to me as it has always been there. When I was a kid and we would head downtown, the IHOP was my indicator that we were in the city. That style of IHOP is a dinosaur, so why not build the same way for the new one?
  • TinyTim,
    Every city has its issues with people opposing density.
    Its quiet typical really.
    As more people moved downtown they are going to have to accept density.
    Its just how things work. Eventually even the neighborhood groups can't oppose x amount of townhouses or if a development has street level retail.
  • Tiny Tim: Good luck in selling your house at a nice profit. Ain't gonna happen, in Indianapolis or any other city. Did you see the article in today's Star. Housing prices are DOWN, they ain't goin' up any time soon. As for CVS, I live in the neighborhood and am looking forward to this getting built. Most customers are going to drive not walk, so I understand the location of the door. I don't see that it should be a big deal, and security does have to be a concern for CVS. It's a concern for me. This design is a heck of alot better than most that they or Walgreens are building these days. We need the economic devlopment.
  • Jim, I don't see how you can say that without knowing the particulars of my situation.

    Thunder, you keep trying and trying and trying to sell this CVS, but it aint working. Have you not ever been in two CVS stores that weren't laid out identically? They aren't all the exact same size or layout. And if they had to have identical design, then they would locate their door on A CORNER, any corner, because every freestanding CVS I can think of, has their entrance at A CORNER of the store. HMMM?

    But for this special urban CVS, it is in the middle of the south facade. It seems like CVS is more interested in making sure the door is as close as possible to as many parking spaces as possible, than they are concerned about not deviating from their standard interior layout.

    I imagine you'll tell us that's great also, because they know what's best for that corner, because they are the market at work. Of course, you'd have a hard time finding anybody to say that following the market would have been the right decision when a two-story bookstore building was proposed (and not accepted by the City) for the eventual site of the Conrad. The market doesn't always provide the development that is in the public interest. That's one of the reasons we have zoning.
  • if it were up to thundermutt, i'd guess downtown would look like Avon.
  • 1. This site isn't a block from the Circle. It's not even downtown as most people understand and agree on the term downtown. Judging from what I see in other cities, this probably qualifies as a midtown district.

    2. Illinois and Washington isn't in this discussion. Neither is Avon. Try to address my points: it's better than what's there now, it's at least a little better than its competitor across the street, and nothing impedes pedestrian access as at McDonald's across the street.

    3. Development in the public interest is applicable to publicly-owned land, like the MSA site. Not this land, which is privately-owned and appropriately zoned for what the developer wants to build.
  • I agree whole-heartedly with Thundermutt. The primary goal of development is economic: does it contribute to the economic viability of the city.

    The dissenters seem to claim that design of a building is the be-all and end-all of city planning and progress. A city should look like New York or Tokyo, and if a particular building doesn't fit their Socratic image of what urban development is, then don't build and dream of your own 115 story Spire. Personally, I think that's counter-productive because it looks at city development on a lot by lot basis instead of the grand picture.
  • Here's another thought: Maybe it's not better than what's there.

    I don't object to an appropriately designed pharmacy, but I'm not convinced that what they're proposing is better than what's there. No, what's there might not be ideal, but at least the IHOP actually faces a street and, although I don't think they use the front door, at least it has windows that allow activity inside and out to be seen from both streets. (And since I've never eaten there, I'm not one who has any fond childhood memories of this place.)

    If this CVS, as proposed, is what passes for improvement and economic development (just think of all those jobs that will be brought over from Illinois & 18th), then I guess I need to crawl into a cave and take a long nap.
  • Agreeing with you means ignoring other parts of the better argument: the other building to be torn down is an uninviting windowless tan split-face-block building with an iron picket fence that wouldn't add interest to any street, much less Meridian. And while ex-cons have to go somewhere to check in with parole officers, 16th and Meridian isn't the right place for that use. Getting rid of it constitutes better development.

    Agreeing with you also means ignoring that the proposed CVS on Meridian is better than the one it replaces on Illinois, which is a suburban-strip-mall store with its parking in the front yard. The proposed parking lot and entry comply with the Regional Center design guidelines at the new site, and they don't at the old site. Better development.
  • Well, whether or not this proposal is better development, than what is there appears to be debatable. Regardless of whether one thinks this is better, I don't agree that simply a shade better is the standard to employ. Only 3 days til Wednesday's MDC hearing, and then perhaps we can move on to the next great economic development coup for the Circle City.

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