I’ve been driving by this new building in construction the past few months. It’s on 11th St. and Indian School. My first thought when I found out what it was was – oh great, all we need in this city is another Circle K.
There’s hardly anything getting built nowadays and for good reason, we have way too many existing buildings waiting to be reused. And one of the few new buildings is a Circle K – a brand new gas station and convenience store? Convenience gas stations are, as you might know, the bane of our Phoenix urban fabric. They’re what define most of our intersections along with a Walgreen, and possibly an empty lot. So instead of having vibrant, pedestrian-oriented, dense intersections, we have sparse car-oriented, disconnected buildings sitting behind a sea of parking.
And this new Circle K is no exception. In fact, it’s mind-boggling how large a site this relatively small building is situated in.
I’m thinking this building is no larger than 8,000 sf, but it’s floating on a site that is 77,435 sf, that’s 1.78 acres! Yes, most of the rest of the site will be taken up by gas pumps, drives and ofcourse parking, but even with those components, this Circle K seems out of scale in it’s surroundings. This site alone takes up as much space as these 3 retail and office buildings on the opposite side of the street.
Maybe this particular Circle K template was pulled out of the suburbs like Surprise or Gilbert. It’s just gynormous and needless to say, it doesn’t fit into the existing urban fabric.
What was there before you ask? Well, it wasn’t ideal by any means. There was a long skinny building with some interesting shops and artists studios, an ad-hoc ‘car wash’ consisting of a canopy and maybe a water pump, and parking. It wasn’t pretty. See this article by Robrt Pela in the New Times for more information on who was using this site before Circle K descended upon the corner.
Looking towards the old ‘car wash’
The old building that housed artists – now gone
I can see why the city was in favor of ‘improving’ this lot. The building, though used by artists, had fallen into disrepair and the ‘car wash’ had become a gathering place for all sorts of unseemly characters. Plus, as you can see from the aerial, there was too much parking and open space behind the artist’s studios, sapping energy from the site.
But this was not the answer to those problems:
This is just a poor band-aid, heck, its not even a band-aid. It’s just a different type of wound. Sure it got rid of the old building that was falling apart and it cleaned up the ‘car wash’ situation. Granted the old building was an affordable space for artisits studios, but I’m not sure if it needed to be saved in it’s particular form. But sadly, there wasn’t much attention given to building a better space for the artists and retailers.
There wasn’t much attention paid to the impact on the neighborhood either. And that’s why it’s surprising this Circle K was approved at the end of the day by the neighborhood association. How exactly will this new Circle K serve the neighborhood and the surrounding businesses? Sure people can now get their Big Gulp from Circle K, but will this building help locals to know their neighbors, does it encourage people to walk or bike, does it create new amenities? No. It’s just another place that you can drive into, get gas, perhaps go inside and get a slushy, and drive away all without making eye contact with a single soul.
This lot was an opportunity wasted. All we have to show for it is yet another Circle K and another 70,000 sf of pavement. It should never have been approved by the City nor the neighborhood.
What are you thoughts? Leave me a comment…Tags: blooming rock, Circle K, community, Devonshire neighborhood association, neighborhood design, Phoenix City Council, taz loomans