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Other Voices: Design matters for planned Walgreens store

Some might find it hard to believe, but Glenbrook Basin and Lake Olympia were once the social and recreation centers of western Nevada County. Things change, and over time the Basin developed into the shopping district we see today.

Development in the Basin was designed and built bit by bit, project by project. The Basin was originally designed and built for the auto – buildings in the back, big parking lots in the front and limited pedestrian design.

So Walgreens wants to build a store at the former Keil site at the corner of Brunswick and Sutton. Welcome to Grass Valley, Walgreens, but please respect our town and build a quality project. Sadly, Walgreens has proposed what is basically their typical 14,500-square-foot box, surrounded by a sea of asphalt parking lots.



But it doesn’t need to be that way. Lets utilize this rare redevelopment opportunity and start to revamp the Basin into a better place and set the standard for future redevelopment.

It’s simple. Just follow “the three basic rules” of good community design: 1) Build to the sidewalk; 2) Make the front of the building “permeable”; and 3) put parking lots to the rear and side. These are the time-tested, basic rules for good community design.




Walgreens recently built a number of outstanding new stores in other towns but refuses to do the same in Grass Valley. The Walgreens’ developer stated in a recent Union article: “Walgreens has built some stores that way … it works well in a heavily urban area such as San Francisco, but downtown San Francisco is more pedestrian friendly.” Well, this statement could not be further from the truth. In fact, it’s a lie.

Walgreens, what about Poland, Ohio – population 2,866 – or Upper Arlington, Ohio? In both towns, Walgreens just built new stores the same size as proposed here. These new Walgreens followed the “three basic rules” of good community design and were built in small towns, not “in a heavily urban area such as San Francisco,” as publicly claimed by Walgreens.

The Upper Arlington Walgreens is mixed use, with offices on the second floor, parking to the rear and side, drive-through lanes, quality building design and a great street front. It’s a very nice project, thoughtful, and it would look great along Sutton Way. Walgreens, please build the same project here. You already have the plans in the corporate office.

The goals, objectives and standards in our General Plan and Design Guidelines call for new development to follow “the three basic rules” of good community design. The standards also call for mixed use in redevelopment, apartments on second floors, parking to the rear and the side and minimizing building setbacks in commercial areas along street frontages.

Our City Council recently reaffirmed these goals and moved to create a new, forward-thinking vision for the Basin. This envisioned future strengthens the Basin and reduces sprawl by adding mixed and second floor uses, retrofitting for people and pedestrians, better utilizing existing infrastructure and understanding the importance and value of the redevelopment opportunities in the Basin.

The City Council decided to undertake the “Glenbrook Basin Infill and Redevelopment Study” and just received a state grant to start this effort. We ask the council to embrace this vision now, starting with a meaningful Walgreens project that takes full advantage of this valuable redevelopment opportunity.

Walgreens can and should build a project that is more respectful of our special and historic community. The company has done it in other small towns, and we fail to see why Grass Valley is less deserving.

Walgreens, please use local builders and construction material suppliers. We have great folks here, and it’s getting real old seeing big corporations come in and use out-of- area contractors, shutting out our local builders and trades people.

Walgreens, why doesn’t Grass Valley deserve the type of quality project that you just built in Upper Arlington or Poland, Ohio? Why do you think Grass Valley is any less deserving?

Walgreens, please read your own corporate PR statement, which says: “When locations are right for us, we make sure our stores are right for the community.” Walgreens, here’s your chance to keep your word to our community.

Please attend the Feb. 26 Grass Valley City Council meeting on the Walgreens project and let Walgreens know that design matters. If you can’t attend, please take a few minutes to call or e-mail City Hall and the City Council members. The contact information is on the city’s Web site at http://www.cityofgrassvalley.com.

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Steve Enos is a resident of Grass Valley, a land-use planner, former City Council member and representative of Grass Valley Neighbors. He can be contacted at senos@localnet.com.


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