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.

The convenience store sitting small on a huge site

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.

The 3 buildings opposite of the Circle K site

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.

An aerial view of what was there before the Circle K arrived

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:

A suburban-sized Circle K plopped in the middle of a relatively dense Central Phoenix street.

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…

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13 Responses

  1. I saw this new building the other day! What surprised me was the size – taking up a prime piece of real estate along such a busy road. I would see the rationale for this if there weren’t any gas stations around… but there is one just five blocks away!

  2. admin says:

    You’re right Tony, it wasn’t like that area needed another gas station. And it was a prime piece of real-estate for a developer with some vision!

  3. Steve Weiss says:

    Sadly, you are mistaken, it was not vacant when it was bought by Circle K.

    The building was used by several artists as studios. At least one artist was forced to move there when Taylor Place ASU Dorms were built on top, and the City of Phoenix helped him/them find this building. It wasn’t much to look at, but it was working space for several artists at a reasonable price.

    Story in New Times;


    • bloomingrock says:

      Steve, that’s even worse! Thanks for the link…I’m anxious to see what this new type of Circle K is. I wonder if that’s why they need such a huge lot.

  4. What’s particularly annoying is that the old building was set directly against Indian School Road, while the new one is set back from the street. That type of development is frustrating since Indian School Road is a potential candidate for a light rail extension and would therefore be suitable for more pedestrian-centric development. Then again, Circle K seems to close stores as often as it opens them. The new store may very well have run through its life cycle by whenever the northeast extension of light rail is finally built. I supposed that’s one advantage of disposable architecture. The Big Gulp is a 7-Eleven product, by the way, although I’m sure Circle K has an equivalent.

    • bloomingrock says:

      Hi David, thanks for the correction on the Big Gulp…:-) Good point that it is set way back on the lot, but that is so typical of a car-centric suburban model, where there’s absolutely no thought given to pedestrian, biker or public transportation access to the building. I hope you’re right about it going away as quickly as it appeared!

  5. CIRCLEKKID says:

    The real shame is the fact that Circle K has abandoned almost all of their beautiful Ralph Haver designed stores, just to build newer stores next to them. What a waste! I feel this and the acquisition of Utotem stores was the prime cause of their bankruptcy filings.

  6. CIRCLEKKID says:

    To Bloomingrock check out http://www.pahomann.com/circlekgallerys/circlek.php He takes photos of re-inhabited circle ks. I also take photos of these in the southwestern states!

  7. CIRCLEKKID says:

    And another note: the market across the street from this at 11th and Indian School is indeed a re-inhabited Circle K with a shaved canopy. They abandoned it and now they’re back!

  8. Taz Loomans says:

    Yeah that market building is cool, too bad they didn’t just re-inhabit that instead of building their bohemoth building across the street

  9. […] to as the Turd, is that it’s tiny compared to the huge site it’s on. This is similar to my complaint about the Circle K down the street that was constructed last […]

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