Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Bel-Loc Diner in Baltimore County to be torn down for a Starbucks

Bel-Loc Diner, Loch Raven Boulevard, Towson, Baltimore County, Maryland. Flickr photo by Pat Gavin.

Likely the building could be saved, but the County seems fine with the developer's proposal to tear the building down and construct a new building in its place.

Preservation Maryland has launched a position campaign to try to get Starbucks to save and rehabilitate the building, rather than demolish it and reuse some of the signage ("Statement Concerning the Proposed Demolition of the Iconic Bel-Loc Diner").

From the Baltimore Sun article ":Starbucks one step closer to opening at Bel-Loc Diner location,"
"It's a truly unique part of Baltimore County's history," County Councilman David Marks, who represents the Joppa Road corridor, said of the diner.

On June 15, Andrea Van Arsdale, the director of the Baltimore County Planning Department, sent the county's Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections a letter stating that the county's Design Review Panel had approved Starbucks' plan for the site, and that her department agrees with that decision and also recommends approval.

The Design Review Panel is a group of seven architects, landscape architects, engineers and other design professionals, appointed by the county executive, whose task is to encourage design excellence in special portions of commercial revitalization districts.

The panel didn't suggest many changes to Starbucks' proposal, according to panel liaison Jenifer Nugent — the configuration of the parking lot was tweaked, as was an outdoor plaza area, she said. Through talks with the planning department, Starbucks officials elected to include signage and decor from the diner in the new coffee shop in recognition of the property's history, Nugent said.

The exterior design for the building would include the Bel-Loc Diner sign, a long-standing neon beacon atop the diner that is easily visible from Joppa Road. The center portion of the sign, which says "Bel-Loc," would be placed on the side of the new Starbucks, Marks said.
Also see:

-- "Bel-Loc Diner a Towson landmark for over 50 years," Baltimore Sun
-- "Preservation group launches petition to reuse, rather than demolish, Bel-Loc Diner," Sun

How Starbucks makes real estate decisions.  The way Starbucks works, these decisions are not made so much "in Seattle" where the company is based, but more locally, between their leasing representatives, typically a regional commercial real estate brokerage, and developers, with involvement and oversight from regionally-based Starbucks real estate staff.

Starbucks has rehabilitated buildings with special architecture and difficult conditions. Starbucks leases have included the rehabilitations of particularly noteworthy examples of mid-century modern architecture in St. Louis ("Starbucks in a Flying Saucer: STL Preservationists Embrace Modernism," NextCity) and Los Angeles ("Customers Fuel up at New Starbucks Store at Site of Historic California Gas Station," Starbucks press release).

Starbucks will locate stores in historic buildings.  In traditional center cities, Starbucks has locations in plenty of "old" or historically designated buildings, from periods pre-dating mid-century modern..

Two different Starbucks on Orange Circle in Orange, California are both noteworthy examples of creativity in design in historic buildings.  In an atypical co-location, a  historic bank building still functioning as a branch for Wells Fargo has been modified on the inside with the addition of a Starbucks in the front of the space, with the teller windows in the back.

But around Orange Circle, not many steps away from the bank building, there is another Starbucks located in a Spanish style one story building that had been home to the town's daily newspaper.
Starbucks Coffee - former Orange Daily News building
Flickr photo of the Starbucks Coffee shop in the former Orange Daily News building.  Flickr photo by Daralee Web World Photos.

Starbucks commitment to sustainable store design.  Starbucks' webpage on Store Design calls attention to their commitment to sustainable store development. A press release calls attention to their use of historic buildings overseas ("Starbucks Stores in Historic Places Across Europe and North Africa").

Photo: Michael Allen, Preservation Research Office.

Like a lot of companies, if the location is where they want to be, and they have to work with what's there, they will. If they are unfettered, they'll take the easiest path.

Advocacy matters.  The St. Louis example is particularly relevant to the Baltimore County situation, as protests in favor of saving the building ("Is Midtown's Del Taco Doomed?," St. Louis Magazine; "Rally to save former Del Taco Saucer on Grand Ave. in St. Louis," St. Louis Post-Dispatch) led to its being saved.  According to the Sun article about the Bel-Loc Diner, the executive branch of Baltimore County Government in particular is fine with the demolition, while the District Councilman seems to favor keeping the building but is more focused on corridor revitalization.

Proposed Starbucks that will replace Bel-Loc Diner is particularly undistinctive, outside of presenting the Starbucks logo and having outside seating.

This rendering illustrates a Starbucks coffee shop the company has proposed building at the current location of the Bel-Loc Diner, in Parkville
This rendering illustrates the Starbucks coffee shop the company has proposed building at the current location of the Bel-Loc Diner, in Parkville.

Starbucks in St. Louis in the former Del Taco "Flying Saucer."
Flying Saucer Starbucks
Flickr photo by Donna Block of the former Del Taco "flying saucer" building, now used by Starbucks and Chipotle.

Starbucks in a restored Gilmore Gasoline Station, Los Angeles.  (The Gilmore family owns the Los Angeles Farmers Market and a Gilmore Gas Station on that site has also been preserved.)
former Gilmore gas station
Flickr photo by Debra Jane Selzer.

Gilmore Gas Station in Hollywood
Flickr photo by Mike Hume of the same building before restoration.

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