WEST HOLLYWOOD—The City of West Hollywood is in negotiations with Walgreens Boots Alliance to buy the company’s 8120 Santa Monica Boulevard property.
The property at the corner of Santa Monica and Crescent Heights has long been a source of contention for the neighborhood. In 2007, Walgreens unveiled their plans for the location: replace the existing strip mall with a sprawling five story mixed-use development. Designed by Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects, the project was called “SMB20.” The lower floors would house retail establishments (a Walgreens chief among them); the upper floors would be made into 28 apartments, six of which were earmarked as affordable housing. The 120,000-square-foot lot would also feature 123 parking spaces and rooftop gardens.
From the beginning, area residents objected to the plan. The project was too big; it would negatively affect traffic patterns; it would push out local business and replace them with international corporations. Public opposition was so vehement that it spawned rallies, op-ed pieces, and a blog.
Due in part to the local response, and in part to bureaucratic delays, the construction never went ahead on the proposed development. It did, however, tear down the strip mall, forcing local shops, restaurants and a church to close. Among the displaced businesses was Tasty Donuts, a favorite among residents, which has since opened another storefront just down the block at 8205 Santa Monica.
Now, all that remain on the 8120 lot are weeds.
If the City of West Hollywood is able to successfully acquire the location, it could provide the city with a valuable opportunity for a new civic project. At this time, the city has not commented on what that project might entail.
Popular demands include affordable housing structures for people with low- and moderate-income, as well as parking structures to alleviate strain on already congested streets. Some also suggest that the space could be used to expand and improve the notoriously busy intersection. Most agree that, whatever happens, it will be better than the vacant lot or the Walgreens proposal.
“The best news I have heard in a long time,” WEHOville commenter Virginia Gillick said. “Fingers crossed.”