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westsider28

Smith's Drug Store Redevelopment

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As this Herald-Journal article details, the current Smith's Drug Store on Main Street is planned to be demolished, with a 4-story, mixed-use building to be built on the site + the adjacent parking lot.  Smith's would take a space on the Dunbar side of the building, while a separate retail spot would be available on Main.  Apartments would be on the top 3 floors.

I love the concept, however I hate the planned driveway and interior parking.  The owner claims those spots are make-or-break for the project (to accommodate customers w/limited mobility, they claim).  They mentioned the parking entrance at Library Commons as a precedent, but to me, Main is different.  It should be entirely pedestrian focused--no exceptions.  The obvious solution, to me, is for the City to reserve several spots on Dunbar as 15-min spots (and/or more handicapped spaces).  I hope the DRB suggests that during the final review (I'm honestly gonna e-mail them).

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Words cannot express how much I hate this. There should be no exceptions to drive-thrus in downtown on the ONE BLOCK of Main Street that is largely historically in tact.

While I am sympathetic to the need to provide accessible (handicapped) parking spaces, that does not explain the rationale for a drive-thru. The City could require accessible parallel parking spaces on Main or since Dunbar has angled parking it would be pretty easy to convert the spaces to be accessible. I'd say the Smith Drug people just want a drive-thru and are rationalizing it with something that's hard to argue against if you don't understand how the regulations actually work.

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I'm going to beg to differ (and will probably receive howls of protests!). 

Many suburban pharmacies have drive-thru's, why shouldn't a downtown pharmacy have one?  A drive-thru seems to make perfect sense to me, especially as downtown's density increases.  Smith's has stuck with downtown when most others have bailed.  Why not accommodate their simple request?  A handful of parking spaces on Main and Dunbar streets won't cut it. 

The overall rendering looks great.

Okay, now rip me to pieces. :tw_grimace:

 

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Just to clarify (since I was at the DRB meeting): the drive-thru is NOT an actual "drive up to a window to pick up your prescription without getting out of your car."  It is simply parking spots reserved for Smith's (which would have signage explaining that, security cameras, etc).  Hence why I say the City can accommodate them with reserved spots on Dunbar to avoid the necessity of of the drive-thru.  Pedestrians should be the #1 priority here, period.  (which is in the Urban Code; this drive-thru would require a variance which I hope isn't granted).

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my 2 cents. I LOVE the fact that this is proposed, I like the preliminary design and like the green space/court yard. I agree that the drive through parking is a bit much and I'd much rather see that space filled with building or common outdoor space, but I do understand the desire for having their own parking. 

I will say this, this plan, flawed or not is a heck of a lot better than a parking lot and that building that Smith's is in now. 

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Ah ok. I get now that it's a space in which to drive your car through rather than a "drive-thru" like a CVS. For the record - my objection/hatred was based on the concept that this was adding parking and - more importantly - adding a driveway on Main Street.

After looking at the site plan more closely I see that they are actually removing the existing parking area to create a pedestrian alley and effectively swapping places with it to move some parking on/in the east side of the building to result in a net loss of spaces and the removal of the existing rather wide driveway with a much narrower drive aisle/hole.

I still think they should be removing driveways on Main Street, but I think this is ok.

I also don't care for the architecture, and not just because its contemporary bullshit architecture. I think it's boring and generic, even for contemporary bullshit architecture. It looks like any one of the bazillion apartment buildings going up here in Charlotte. It's not special at all, and Main Street should be the most special place. If it has to be contemporary bullshit architecture, at least make it good contemporary bullshit architecture.

To end on a positive note, the urban design is actually pretty good. I like the two retail spots on the ground floor, and I love that there is residential up top.

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To be fair, the design is in the early stages.  The current rendering is more like a massing and design intent.  Materials will be key, and of course the DRB will have the final say.  I must say, the DRB has done an admirable job lately insisting on positive changes in several recent projects.  I'm pretty confident that they realize the importance of this location and will make sure that design is high-quality.  I agree it looks really bland now, but I'd reserve some criticism until we see a more final design.

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Agreed. So far the DRB has always managed to improve the site designs in other projects it affects.

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This project is finally coming back before the DRB for conceptual approval at their November 6 meeting.  It will be interesting to see if/how the design has changed.

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This project has gotten quite a bit larger.  It is now 6 stories (59 apts), with the top 2 floors set-back like the Aug Smith building.  The drive-thru remains, but the interior parking is gone.  Smith's Drug spans the whole building from Main to Dunbar now, with the extra tenant space along the side pedestrian plaza.

The DRB thought it looked too busy / too many different materials & colors, and asked them to simplify the design.  They also weren't sure about the orange-ish accent color.  And they wanted the top 2 floors to either be more cohesive with the first 4 floors or be de-emphasized (they thought it was neither here nor there).  It's still kind of early in the process, so they'll keep revising.

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Still not a fan of this form an architectural standpoint. The driveway thing is dumb, and when Smith closes (let's face it- it's going to happen some day) we're going to be stuck with a building with a random drive thru that serves no purpose.

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True, but the drive through could always be enclosed and made into a small retail space. Not ideal, but it could work....

Also, the set back for the upper floors is garbage. This part of the code sucks.

Edited by spartanburgh

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59 minutes ago, Spartanburg Dude said:

I may be the only one, but I don't hate it. I don't love it either, but I'm okay with it. Hopefully, they'll take the feedback and make it a bit more cohesive and "burgish".

I love it!  It doesn't conform to other downtown buildings but I don't think it needs to conform.  Main Street needs a touch of contemporary architecture.  Other positives:

  • Six stories - wow!
  • 59 units - wow!
  • Fills up the entire space and the parking lot - wow!
  • And I think the drive thru is kind of cool.  - wow!

 

Edited by roads-scholar
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13 hours ago, Spartan said:

Still not a fan of this form an architectural standpoint. The driveway thing is dumb, and when Smith closes (let's face it- it's going to happen some day) we're going to be stuck with a building with a random drive thru that serves no purpose.

Based on the floor plan, it looks like Smith's will be expanding pretty substantially, so they seem to be committed / confident that they'll be here a long time.

5 hours ago, spartanburgh said:

True, but the drive through could always be enclosed and made into a small retail space. Not ideal, but it could work....

Also, the set back for the upper floors is garbage. This part of the code sucks.

In general, I agree that the height limit / setback requirement on Main is unnecessary.  But in this case (with this style of building), I think it creates a better product.  With a modern design that doesn't match the rest of Main, it's more important for the massing to respect the context.  The setback achieves that, though the building design does need further refinement.  Personally, I'd like to see the grey brick on the first 3 floors be red brick instead, to match the context better.

(This is yet another grey building...TOO MUCH GREY!)

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It does appear in the rendering that the set back is much less than what is required in the code. The rendering shows the

set back of the upper floors is 12 -16' (estimate on my part).  I think that a set back of this dimension is much more practical

than 60'.  If it were 60', the upper floors here and at Aug Smith would not have been possible or practical.

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