Update on a proposed large CVS in downtown Carrboro

Back in November, I posted about the large development CVS is proposing to build catty-corner from the Century Center.  (see here).  Since that post things have been moving along quietly.

Here is a quick recap of whats going on...

  • CVS is proposing to build a 2 story 23,000 square foot building and parking lot on the corner of Weaver St and N.Greensboro St. (See Map). 
  • In order to construct this building & parking lot, 2 Historic Mill-houses(on Center & Greensboro) would have to be demolished and many mature trees will need to be cut-down (not usually a concern for CVS).  See the developer's initial plans at this Link.
  • As far as I know, no official plans have been submitted to the town.  The developer (Hart-Redd) indicated to the town that they intend to build this project by requesting a "courtesy" review from the Board of Alderman (See this link for meeting minutes).  They also had a meeting with nearby residents & business owners right before Christmas.  (News articles about these meetings are below).  The developers said that the CVS in Carrboro is the highest volume CVS in North Carolina.
  • A group of community members have been organizing to make sure the town is aware of concerns about traffic, noise, pedestrian safety etc.. We simply feel that this site is not appropriate for a large CVS and encourage a smarter alternative development for this site (for example Fleet Feet was interested).


Action Items for the near future:

  • Tell the Carrboro Alderman your opinion on this project.  The developer must ask the town to rezone residential and light-commercial properties on Center Street in order for them to build a parking lot.
  • Attend the meeting the developer is holding on  March 14th at 7PM at Carrboro Town Hall.
  • Attend community organizing meeting April 3rd at 2PM, at Carrboro Town Hall.
  • Join out Google Groups announcement list (click here), read our Blog (http://centerofcarrboro.blogspot.com/) & join our Facebook group here.  This email announcement list will be a low-traffic list with only essential announcements.  Email us at here if you have questions.

More information & news articles:




Since Carrboro wouldn't let Harris Teeter build on Jones Ferry, moving the CVS over to the 'Norina' corner and then letting Harris Teeter expand into the old CVS space is the best plan possible.Why would anyone be against this? 

The Board of Aldermen approved the CUP for a new Harris Teeter on Sept. 25, 2007.

... and for the more-contemporaneous and thorough reference used in my assertion:http://www.dailytarheel.com/index.php/article/2010/02/carrboro_harris_teeter_plans_still_contentious So, have I mischaracterized the situation?   Is there more current information I should have read first?What body of authority currently controls the ability for this project to move forward, if not the Carrboro Board of Aldermen ("Carrboro") ? And, if it does not move forward, what plausible alternatives do the businesses in question have, other than leaving? 

Because there might be a better use for the corner lot than the CVS.  This is what community planning is about.

I will counter:1)  there's a demonstrated community need2)  there's a demonstrated business case3)  there's a source of committed capital  Community planning is a terrific idea.  A piece of property can be used for lots of purposes as part of planning a community.  However, the community doesn't own the property.  Some person (or persons) does (do).  There is a limit on what people ought to be told what they can and can't do with their own property.  If there are people who don't like what the current owner wants to do with his property, the objectors should pool together and buy it from him.  There should be a fixed date by which this can happen. If the money can't be raised from the "community of objectors" by that date, then, the owner should be free to develop his property as he sees fit.  

(Barbaba Crockett - outrageousness alert)If we consider the highest and best community planning to basically be defined as "whoever has the money to buy land and the money to do what they want" then we have to live with the consequences.

community planning to basically be defined as whoever has the money to get the zoning changed or make it through an unpredictable and expensive SUP process, then we have to live with those consequences too - primarily that many smaller businesses can't afford the process. (Go food trucks!)  If Terri's correct about the original zoning, the solution would be simple - keep it as is. Deny rezoning.I do have sympathy with CVS. Their project would brings jobs to the community, fill a community need, and they have the wherewithal to make it happen. So perhaps there's a nearby location that would address the traffic issue and still be a good match for them. 

You're either with us or against us - do we really need more drug outlets? This gets down do what is really useful.

for their children suffering from ear infections, ringworm, flu, or the occasional lice breakout? Where should diabetics get their supplies? What about people who use medicine to control heart rates or blood pressure? Some medicines are useful. Plus, I purchased my Christmas tree lights at the Carrboro CVS store this year. 

You can get all your pharmaceutical needs at Carrboro Family Pharmacy at Carrboro Plaza without having to wade through all the excesses of junk found at CVS. Does CVS really create the kind of jobs we want in our community? Who would fill those jobs and where would they live? 

I forgot about Carrboro Family Pharmacy. I've waited in line there too. CVS does have excesses of junk and I hate their lighting, but some people with certain kinds of insurance plans have to get short-term medicines there."Does CVS really create the kind of jobs we want in our community?" They hire pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and plenty of people with high school diplomas. Yes, we need jobs for a diverse set of people and educational levels."Who would fill those jobs and where would they live?" Good question, but lots of people are looking for jobs and hopefully local governments will continue to create "affordable" housing.I don't think these questions should be part of a permit/rezoning/SUP process.  

I agree that they shouldn't be part of the permitting/zoning process, but they are part of the community planning process someone mentioned earlier. Building a big new CVS may create jobs, but not necessarily for Carrboro or even Orange County residents. And yes, a bigger CVS may bring in more sales tax on all the excess junk, but I think the rule of thumb is that a dollar earned by a locally owned business will be spent up to 7 times within the community while a dollar earned from a chain will only be spent 3 times. That rule of thumb assumes that employees of the business live and shop in the community.So in this case, we would lose a local dentist and a local beauty salon in the process of getting the chain store. I'm not sure how to calculate the net loss/gain of the trade off, but I *feel* like it's a net loss. When OWASA begins tearing up Weaver St next week, we'll all learn just how inconvenient and frustrating a year-long construction project on that corner would be. The impact of that inconvenience on surrounding businesses need to be factored into any decision. 

With all due respect to Carrboro Family Pharmacy, they are one of the old-timey Carrboro business that have their business hours set to some bygone era when men worked and women did the shopping.  I would love to shop there, but I have a job, and they are only open during traditional office hours.  Both Carrboro Family Pharmacy and Fitch Lumber would do much, much better if they updated their business hours to reflect the reality of 21st century life.

You know, I was going to make a joke about that post how dare you expect a busniess to cater to you instead of vice-versa but it occurs to me that some people in this area would probably actually raise that as a serious objection.  I can imagine people saying "CVS will have longer hours and therefore they'll get more business and consequently Carrboro Family Pharmacy, or whoever has shorter hours, will get less business and be hurt."  The fact that that means that CVS would be getting more business because they were performing better and thereby better serving the public would go unnoticed by some, unfortunately.

Does CVS really create the kind of jobs we want in our community? At least some of the jobs they would create would be high paying jobs, which we certainly need more of. This is an elite and extremely expensive place to live, which is partially (but not entirely) a side-effect of the relative lack of commerical development in town. Some of us can afford to be uber-selective about what kind of jobs we do and don't want, but there actually are people in the area who can't afford that, and it's rather patronizing to diguize elitism and progressivism, when it is in fact nothing of the sort. Who would fill those jobs and where would they live? As to the where would they live, likely not in CH or Carrboro, given the cost of living. Though *some* of those jobs would be high-paying, not all of them would be, and none of them would likely be sufficient to live in town. Keep in mind that more than 60% of people working in Chapel Hill and Carrboro can't afford to live here - a very Marin County-esque scenario. This is also, of course, endemic locally, and has nothing to do with CVS.CVS being at that corner isn't going to ruin anything.and my anonymity has much to do with my poverty, landlords, bosses. Sorry I can't stick my neck out. I suppose that means I don't count.

Of course there should be community planning and there is!  The owners are not free to do whatever they want and shouldn't be.  I can think of a lot of things the owners of that piece of property should not be allowed to do there.  I am sure (almost) everyone can.  On the other hand, what constitutes community planning?  Is it the desires of a small group of self selected people, some of whom live in Carrboro?  Or is the function of the government and planning committees of Carrboro?  I believe it is the latter and I believe (at least I hope) that is currently underway.Other points - The property is currently a mess. Something needs to be done there.  It is a key piece of downtown Carrboro.  Planning for that property should be conducted in the context of plans (and a vision) for the rest of downtown Carrboro.  I am not up on current plans.  Is there still a viable plan for building on the property currently occupied by the Cat's Cradle?  In any case it seems to me that the commercial center of town will be moving to the east and possibly to the south.  Many people in Carrboro and the town government put special value in the historic mill houses to the north and west of this property, I believe.  The property under discussion could and I believe should serve as a transition between any new development to the east and the historic mill house district.  I also currently see no reason that a drugstore could not be an occupant of this transition property.Is the proposed plan for this property a take it or leave it proposition?

That site is totally inappropriate for a high volume store. Anyone who has been around when the delivery trucks are trying to get to Weaver Street or who has tried to exit the HT parking lot can attest to this. Say no to rezoning! 

Urban infill causes traffic problems.  Using zoning to fix traffic problems is unwise. You fix traffic problems by regulating traffic.  For example, you mandate that a property owner use part of their property to provide vehicle queuing such that the public right-of-way isn't likely to bear the burden of the developer's development.Here are two examples, one good and one bad.Good example:The recent expansion of the Catholic church property on Fordham Blvd. included significanty changes to traffic queuing so as to lessen the impact to travelers on the highway.  Now, any controlled intersection on a busy thoroughfare will end up impacting traffic somewhat but the queuing (like the Jersey jughandles that established the practice) made what could have been awful FAR better.Bad example:A certain well-known ocal developer built large projects on either side of NC54 between 15-501 and the Durham line in the past 10 years.  100% of the through traffic drivers on that stretch of road now pay (literally) by wasting a small and cumulative portion of their lives each day, without compensation, a "tax" on the public which could have been avoided had this developer been required to install, on his property, traffic queuing. Now, back to your point.Zoning should be a policy for establishing roughly compatible uses for adjacent lots, not a tool to deny people their right to use their property.  Good zoning allows people to predict the value of their property, and not be forced to guess the future whims of a capricious "community" interest body that whips itself into a frenzy when somebody wants to cut a tree down.If your complaint is traffic, fix the traffic problem by setting reasonable requirements for not burdening the general public with the traffic caused by someone's development.  Now ... if the lot in question isn't big enough to support its own traffic queues ...  that is another story. 

The problem with your approach is that the intersection is already insufficient for handling the current traffic load. Requiring the developer to put in queueing may address the problem for that lot but not for the intersection as a whole. Fixing the intersection is part of the traffic plan we reviewed years and years ago that has never been funded. Since the new owner is requesting rezoning to accommodate a big parking lot, my suggestion isn't a misuse of the zoning tool. It's simply an enforcement of what is already on the books rather than a workaround that makes a bad situation even worse.  

Why isn't the community asking Ruffin why he knowingly sold that property to this developer?  In my mind, this eyesore is 100% the fault of Ruffin and WSM, which is why I stopped shopping there immediately after the sale of the property. 

Perhaps because of the extremity of the economic downturn, which actually did affect some people and individuals in the area very severely.  I'm glad that the sale took place.  The alternative would have been the possibility of a catastrophic financial situation for WSM.  I think there are plenty of people whould wouldn't be directly affected by such an outcome who might not care if a growing local business went under in deference to someone else's principles, but this would be economically devastating to the staff and worker-owners, many of who would simply not be able to afford to live here any longer.  Very large numbers of them already commute in long distances, and very large numbers of them have already made a LOT of sacrifices to keep the co-op afloat.  It would be nice to see this esoteric dedbate actually stoop to consider the effect of these kinds of decisions on working people in our community.

So there is already a CVS and Harris Teeter? As for jobs at CVS, Pharmacists do quite well as do Managers. So creating very high-paying jobs for UNC Pharm. D.s to work at while going to school is a bad idea?

Another great use for that space would the Homeless Shelter. Since they don't tend to drive (although that's changing thanks to Republican policies and Banks), it shouldn't create a traffic problem.

The CVS would be perfect next to Homestead Park on MLK and putting the Homeless Shelter on the Corner in Carrboro keeps it closer to where it can do more good for the Homeless.


I do not understand the stated points of view on development on this site.In this discussion, siting a high-volume store in town, in a very accessible location, is opposed due to traffic concerns. In other discussions, accessibility via public transportation, walking and biking, are considered high priorities due to environmental concerns; urban sprawl is abhored. Shouldn't we want our grocery store and drug store in such a central location?I certainly want both an expanded HT and an expanded CVS in this location, so that I can do my shopping along my usual routes instead of making a separate trip to the Chatham HT and CVS.

Amen Jan and the answer is they do not want any business improvement.

You have hit the nail squarely on the head as it pertains to this issue and many others around here.  People want to have their cake and eat it too.  I don't blame them.  But in the end the two are mutually exclusive.  There is a direct connection between how CH/C develops and sprawl in outlying areas (and vice-versa).  There is a lot more outlying sprawl because of CH/C.  Hey, people that work at UNC have to live somewhere, right? It's as if there's some sort of ethic around here that says that things that large numbers of people like and flock to are by definition bad.  So if we're going to put up a CVS or whatever and if people will like it and it will draw a lot of people, then it must be bad.    But we have to pay the tab one way or the other.  If we want low traffic and more trees then we have to pay the higher property tax because the tax money from commerce goes to other counties.  And we also have to either take the time and effort to go to those stores in other counties that people en masse prefer and that save us money or else we have to pay more money to shop here. University Mall and the Harris-Teeter near it are my favorite examples to contrast.  Those stores off 15-501 on the way to Durham, which on the whole serve the same function as U Mall, are flourishing (except for Borders, but that's a national issue rather than a local one).  And the traffic for those places aren't just coming from the north, east and south.  They're coming from CH/C too.  (And in addition to their parking lots being full, their bus stops are too.)  U Mall OTOH is dead.  U Mall is in a better location for people in CH/C and yet many just drive right past it.Consider the H-T near U Mall though.  It has three competitors within less than a mile (the Whole Foods, or whatever it's named now, on Elliot Rd, the Trader Joe's at Eastgate and the Food Lion at Rams Plaza).  The H-T is in essentially the same place as U Mall and in fact the H-T is in a worse place than U Mall in the sense that its competitors are closer.  And yet unlike dead U Mall, H-T is flourishing so much that they're planning to expand their store near U Mall.Why is one doing so well while the other is doing so poorly?  Because one of them is serving the needs of the people and the other is not.The one serving the needs of a large number of people aren't the bad guys, they're the good guys.

is a good example of the risks we take when we commit local resources to large out-of-town corporate enterprises.  I'm not saying this necessarily trumps other issues, but it is not something that can just be dismissed out-of-hand by saying "but that's a national problem." The big bank & mortgage scams were "national problems" & they are a huge cause of local economic pain. 

Legally, the town can't say no to CVS just because the public doesn't want a large chain drug store there. But the town can certainly try to shape what the CVS looks and feels like, how large it is, where its windows are, how much parking it has, how accessible it is by foot and bike, etc. There are several towns in NC that have forced CVS - and other large chains - out of their big box mold and made them fit their businesses into the local fabric. Look at the CVS in Davidson, NC. Or the McCafe in Oak Ridge, NC. Or the Wal-Mart in Belmont. These towns had no legal way of keeping these businesses out of their cores, so they did the next best thing - they put their planners to work making sure the developers built what the town wanted them to build. Carrboro has some excellent planners. They should be able to pull this off. 

On what grounds could or would the BOA deny the upcoming CUP request? The CVS plan doesn't really throw up any red flags, it's hard to object just because we would all rather see something different there.

CVS knows how valuable the property is over time, and it doesn't really matter to them how long it takes to make it happen; they've effectively blocked any other drug stores. Mac Fitch probably gets regular offers, but the lock on the corner reduces the value to direct competitors.

Unfortunately, I don't see them selling to a more Carrboro-friendly buyer, they will leave the eyesore there until long after we are all sick of looking at it.  I feel like we could be looking at years of whining and losing in the end.  

I see this, re library issue:The
rezoning needs six of seven votes, or a supermajority, to pass, because
neighbors near the site filed a protest petition.Seems like we want to file one as soon as CUP is applied for 

I just wanted to remind the Carrborians that we (mostly residents of Center St and Oak Ave) are holding a community meeting to
discuss the proposed CVS project on Sunday at 2pm at Carrboro Town Hall.  We will present what we know about the plans CVS has made for the
project on the corner of Weaver St and Greensboro St. We'll also discuss the concerns we have about this project. We would like to brainstorm on better smarter development for the properties that are already zoned for commercial uses on that block.

This corner lot is a great place for a drug store... anyone attending the Christmas parade or a summer festival can walk right in to get bandaids for their blisters.  It is right downtown where we want all our development to be, and will have parking for those who live outside walking distance, and even though many of you don't want to believe it, there are quite a few Carrboro residents who cannot walk downtown to shop.We DO need a bigger store that offers more products. Yes, we really do. Our population is growing, not shrinking. More people are moving to Orange Co, Chapel Hill and Carrboro. A larger store with more check out lines, and perhaps more pharmacists to fill prescriptions is good for our citizens. With the limits put on us by our health insurance companies, some citizens are simply REQUIRED to have prescriptions filled at certain stores. Don't make their lives more difficult by not have ANY drug stores downtown.And we have had quite a bit of time to "come up with something else."  Years, in fact.  I have not heard of any other suggestions. This will add vitality to our downtown and add much needed sales tax revenue to our county.  I hope we can get CVS developers to create a space that is easy on the eye, especially for those homeowners on Center St.  No one wants their front door to face a delivery and trash area. Lots of landscaping would be nice, especially if there could be enough open space to allow space for larger trees to bring us shade in the future.Change is not all bad. 


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