We come to praise

Last week there was a ribbon cutting for a large, mixed-use project on Capitol Hill. The Broadway Crossing on the southwest corner of Broadway and Pine is now officially part of the neighborhood.

This is a very good thing. It's likely that many people will drive by and not be aware that something remarkable took place. But the Broadway Crossing development represents a significant achievement. It's an asset to the neighborhood and serves as a example of mixed-use development done right.

It very nearly didn't happen. That it did is a credit to a varied group of organizations and individuals whose interests are often wildly divergent. Consider that the Walgreens store on the building's street level is topped with four floors of affordable housing. Broadway Crossing is the first such partnership Walgreens has undertaken in the entire country. The stars needed to line up for this project. And in this case, they did. It's remarkable that this project could be pulled off at all.

Some kudos are due.

First, to the neighborhood, for reacting strongly and clearly at an early design review meeting when a stand-alone Walgreens with surface parking was first proposed for the property.

Kudos are due to Scott Grainger, the developer who took those concerns to heart and immediately started reimagining the project to include neighborhood values.

Kudos are due to Capitol Hill Housing, for being able to navigate complicated logistical and financial dynamics to create a complicated mixed-use project with affordable housing.

Kudos are due to Walgreens, the huge national retailer which was willing to consider an alternative to its preferred method of creating new stores. It's rare to praise such a corporate behemoth. But Walgreens deserves much praise here, particularly for its patience. A stand-alone store, one that looks like any other Walgreens, could have been up and running years ago. The company thought long-term when it didn't really have to.

The Broadway Crossing achieves several goals the neighborhood designated in its neighborhood plan, affordable housing chief among them, and as a result the neighborhood was and is highly supportive of the project.

Compare this approach with other mixed-use projects, such as the one proposed for the 500 block of East Pine Street. That monolithic structure will displace several well-liked neighborhood businesses that add to the neighborhood's character and, thus far at least, the project makes the neighborhood cringe. Broadway Crossing is cited on property that used to be a gas station.

Broadway Crossing is an example of urban density done with foresight and vision. To all those who made it happen: well done.

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