Pedestrian Chronicles: Mixed Mixed Use
Divvying up the retail space on the ground floor of mixed-use developments will activate the street.
The CVS development with two floors of residential housing on top that's being built on the corner of Mercer and Queen Anne Ave. N. in Uptown is adding more mix to the concept of mixed-use.
Rather than giving the full 12,000-plus square footage on the ground floor exclusively to CVS, the property owner and developer, Velmeir, is, after consulting with the community, setting aside about 200 square feet for a separate business, a small street window-style food shop—along the lines of Little Uncle on Madison in Capitol Hill.
The developers saw the need to "activate the street."
It's only about 1.5 percent of the development—which is replacing the Spectator sports bar on Queen Anne Ave. N. along with the Kidd Valley and the small strip mall and parking lot on Mercer—but still, it's a big deal conceptually.
A flaw in the execution of mixed-used developments around town—see the north end of Broadway in Capitol Hill—is that the retail spaces on the ground floor typically get rented out to bland corporate clients. One way to prevent that stale scenario is to divvy up the ground floor spaces, perhaps by instituting zoning requirements that prohibit one business from monopolizing the entire space; smaller spaces would help indie businesses afford the rents.
Certainly, the CVS example isn't 100 percent on-point with my cause given that most of the super-sized floor space is going to CVS. But the fact that the developers saw the need to "activate the street" (as F. Geza de Gall, VP of Real Estate for Velmeir, told me) on the Mercer side facing north (where the food window will go along with the residential entrance) is a sign that this concept is in play.
Thanks to community input, the CVS development has already moved the needle on pro-urbanist planning by inspiring the council to draft legislation requiring developments in business district zones like the zone along Queen Anne Ave. N., to meet minimum density with residential buildouts on the upper floors. I hope the decision by Velmeir and the neighborhood to get creative with the ground floor inspires more council legislation.