Gas Stations Pose Urban Design Challenge

Gas Stations Pose Urban Design Challenge

This article was scraped from Rochester Subway. This is a blog about Rochester history and urbanism has not been published since 2017. The current owners are now publishing link spam which made me want to preserve this history.. The original article was published May 16, 2009 and can be found here.

Abandoned Mobil station at the corner of Monroe Avenue and Clover in Pittsford, NY. It's been years since they removed the pumps from this station.

On Monday evening, June 8, 2009, the     Rochester Regional Community Design Center    will go before Rochester's City Planning Commission and appeal the decision to allow a Fastrac gas station to be built on     Main Street next to the Main/University Inner Loop on-ramp    . Roger Brown, Creative Consultant at RRCDC explains, "Though we don't agree with the Zoning Board's decision to allow a gas station at that site ... much of our case will be about the urban design of the building and how it needs to be designed according to the Center City Design Standards for Main Street."

I'll talk more about those "urban design standards" and     how you can help    . But first, there's a virus spreading across America...

For decades this virus has been embedding itself within our communities and spreading through our neighborhoods like a rash. Once the virus has sucked everything it can from the immediate population, it moves on leaving an ugly scar that sometimes never fully heals. You can put down the face mask, I'm not talking about the Swine Flu. I'm actually referring to the franchise and chain businesses that have dotted our landscape with brand-specific, single-use architecture such as this...

Another rotting Mobil station in Webster, NY.

If you live in or around Rochester, chances are you've got at least one of these eyesores in your neighborhood. The short-sighted, profit driven thinking that produced hundreds of now empty Mobil stations in western New York (including the two shown above in Pittsford and Webster, NY) has also given us hundreds of thousands of fast food restaurants and big-box stores that will either need to be torn down (often at the expense of the taxpayer) or sit empty once the original tenant goes out of business. Thank you Exxon Mobil, Walmart, Home Depot, McDonald's, Krispy Kreme, Target, and K-mart (to name a few).

So how do we fight this trend and rebuild Main Street USA? A few cities across the country have already established formal design guides specifically pertaining to service stations and their accessory uses (coffee shops, restaurants, drive thru's and convenience stores). These guides are in addition to more typical zoning restrictions and generally set rules around things like site and building organization, vehicular/pedestrian access, built form, landscaping etc. Take a look at what can be achieved when a few design rules are established...

A multi-use service station in Milwaukee, WI.

This is a multi-use service station in Milwaukee, WI. While the architecture itself is very simple and its location is not really urban at all, the building conforms to the most basic rules of urban design. That is:

  1. It's more than one story.
  2. It's compact. Even the pumping station shelter is fairly compact and efficient.
  3. It's built out to the street edge and its driveways break the sidewalk only once on each side.

Another innovative solution can be found in Rome, Italy, where space is at a premium. Architects Marco Bevilaqua and Bianca Patroni-Griffi have been commissioned to design new standardized service stations (below) which can be customized to blend in with the character of different neighborhoods.

A multi-use service station in Milwaukee, WI.

How You Can Help
   Submit Your Photos or Designs...

To help build a strong case to present to Rochester's City Planning Commission, the RRCDC would like to design an ideal scenerio for downtown gas/service stations. That is:

  1. At least 3 stories.
  2. Built up to the sidewalk.
  3. Parking and pumps in the rear.
  4. Oh, and it should be fairly obvious it's a gas station.

Maybe you know of such examples or have an idea you could express in a simple doodle drawing? Your submission will go a long way in our effort to build a better Rochester.     Please email photos or sketches to    .

UPDATE: The RRCDC presented its case against the proposed Fastrac gas station on Main Street. Unfortunately, the Planning Board decided to allow development to move ahead as proposed. We've lost this round but the fight rages on.

Chris Gemignani

Chris Gemignani

Rochester, NY, USA