Thursday, February 25, 2016

Not another convenience store!

The retail scene produces the least sustainable architecture, based on how long a particular design lasts before it gets replaced with a new one. Sticking out as especially unsustainable are convenience stores, architecturally, in urban design, from a health perspective and as local economic development.
Royal Farm standard edition, columns with flagstone socks (SUN photo) 

Lately  conventional retailers and convenience stores seem to agree that getting gas and food in the same place is a good idea.

Inhaling fumes at the pump usually doesn't come to mind as an appetizer for fried chicken or anything to eat. As far as I am concerned, I am glad about the-pay-at-the-pump feature that allows me to escape the bloated cashier stations with their lottery tickets, smelly bathrooms and snack lines. But just as all gas stations have become convenience stores and many convenience store gas stations, large scale grocery chains not only give out gas points but also put gas stations in their parking lots. None of this bodes well for the fabric of our cities already riling from all the drive through joints.

Con or sin gaz, those suburban convenience stores proliferate inside the city like stink trees. It was good to see a community trying to stem the tide and organize against one of these fake-name contraptions ("Royal Farm"). The locale: Harford Road in Hamilton. Their outgoing councilman originally argued seriously that one of those star-ships which at night is visible all the way to Alpha Centauri would be better than the current vacant lot. But after the Mayor and Planning Director withdrew their support, the project could be defeated except that it gained its necessary variances from the Zoning Board and NoRoFo needs money for an appeal. David winning against Goliath?
NoRoFo Hamilton (Brew photo)

It is bad enough how often CVS, 7-11, Walgreens and their brethren are taking over useful city retail even in prime locations like Pratt Street and Market Place. These chains litter the City with silvery unhealthy chip mini bags and all the other detritus that sells under the flag of convenience and clogs up storm-drains and arteries alike. The token banana sitting forlorn in a basket near the check-out can't fool anybody about the fact that these places are worse than the maligned Korean liquor stores in the hood when it comes to poisoning the poor.

To add insult to injury, this winter proved that these chains never tell their staff that sidewalks need to be cleared from snow and ice. It is time that the proposed zoning code reins in those places in favor of useful retail which the city really needs.

Klaus Philpsen, FAIA

Hamilton Royal Farms Dispute, the Brew
Walmart Convenience Store prototype, Bentonville Arkansas

See also on this blog: Why reopening the Rite Aid is not only a cause for celebration
Architecture of Convenience

suburban CVS model

Burnt out CVS: West Baltimore (Sun photo)

CVS Pratt Street (photo: ArchPlan)
Midtown: Replacing a local icon with a CVS

Market Place, Baltimore (photo: BBJ)


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