Monday, October 27, 2008

Walls and bridges, or the things we do to drive-thru


A few contested decisions of town zoning commissions over the past year resulted in approvals for special, some would say "creative," design solutions to allow drive-thru pharmacy windows for two chain pharmacies which are nearing completion.

Sometimes those architectural sketches are a little hard to interpret, and it's worth it to revisit the proposals to see what happens when brick and mortar take the place of paper and ink.

In the case of the new CVS (because Middletown desperately needs another CVS), on Washington Street, developers proposed building a new bridge over the Cochingchaug River and a curb cut and entrance on West Street because entrance and exit on Washington Street was considered too precarious. After much debate, especially by environmental experts who believe that stretch of the Cochinchaug is already threatened, the new entrance and bridge was approved.

Here's what it looks like today. The bridge might be considered handsome, if it didn't point directly to the destination - a drive-thru window.

On Main Street, zoning officials allowed another chain pharmacy, Rite-Aid (because Middletown desperately needs another Rite-Aid), an exception to a regulation which prohibits drive-thru windows on Main Street. Again, after considerable argument from the public, the zoning officials granted the exception, which included some extreme grading, and a large retaining wall on Union Street, across from the YMCA. The builders promise some ameliorating plantings to make up for the fact that you've got to drive to the second floor to get to the parking lot, and the drive-thru.

It's some wall, nearly a half a block long, and about 15 feet high at its highest point.

Believe me, I'm not opposed to development, nor to drive-thru windows - I actually use them occasionally (but I prefer chatting to the barristas at the Starbucks inside the store where I buy my latte), we need, simply to consider that a wall or a bridge on paper is something else again when built.


Anonymous said...

Generally I feel that 'drive throughs' are an abomination, but I can see the logic to having such a feature for a pharmacy. If a customer is not feeling well, or is a parent with a sick child in the car, or is physically handicapped, then a drive through comes in handy. I haven't seen the CVS bridge yet, so cannot comment on that. But that wall across from the Y is a serious mistake and should never have been allowed. I recall that Catherine Johnson had an alternative design that would have been much nicer.

Anonymous said...

i agree that the wall opposite the Y is horrible. so, i'm wondering, who voted for this, and when are they up for re-election? i say, let's vote them out, and quick!