Several years ago, Suncor rebuilt the Petro-Can station at the corner of Gladstone and Bronson. It is on a fairly big site for a city. It has the conventional layout: gas pumps under a canopy out front where it can be seen, a convenience store and pay point in the rear. The whole station architecture is part and parcel of a “branding” exercise so we all know whose station it is without any signage actually being required.
Now, let’s look at the Petro-Can at Somerset:
When trying to rescue Bronson from the City’s original excessively auto-obsessed design, community members asked that the Petro-Can at Somerset and Bronson have its driveways reduced from four to two. After all, the modernized one at Gladstone has one entrance on Gladstone, one on Bronson. Why did Somerset need two entrances on each street, two curb cuts on each face, four sidewalk crossings, and dangerous exits and entrances to the street just fifteen feet from a already hazardous intersection, one of the ten most dangerous (for pedestrians) in the city?
The City came back telling us that it couldn’t be done. Now I doubt if they even tried to reduce it from four entrances to two.
Because Suncor came to the community last week with plans to reconstruct the Somerset Petro-Can station. And lo and behold, there is now one entrance on each street, not two. “Don’t like four”, came the explanation, “too dangerous. Much better with two.” Apparently, Suncor isn’t that unwilling to have two entrances rather than four after all.
Much more exciting was the revised site plan. Gas stations follow a time-honoured design from the nineteen forties, with pumps out front. Like strip malls and other front-yard parking commercial layouts, this blights the pedestrian environment and degrades the urban experience. It’s part of that “motorist-centric” planning model we are trying to move beyond. Back to the future, so as to speak, as we go back to the traditional mainstreet design of buildings close to the sidewalk.
The old station design has the kiosk under the centre island, with the back of the lot storage shed.
The newish Petro-Can at Gladstone has a more modern, much higher canopy, but still has the pumps out front, the kiosk pushed to back of the auto-dominated front of the lot. The kiosk and canopies are “standardized” components, modules put together pretty much the same way everywhere there is a station.
There is the usual pylon advertisement out on the curb, in case you haven’t noticed the station before, or missed the signage put high up on the canopy.
At the City’s suggestion — or maybe insistence? — the new station at Somerset will be reversed.
The convenience store will be right out front, set at the very corner of the intersection. It will have pedestrian doors facing the Bronson sidewalk (but not the Somerset one). And doors facing the pump islands. There will be sign pilons built up and out from the building, rather than freestanding.
This new design, and I congratulate whomever is responsible for it at Petro-Can or city planning, removes the “big hole” appearance at a major intersection, and puts some building fabric back onto the streetscape. It should also serve to calm traffic. And the single entrance on each street will definitely improve pedestrian and motorist safety. There will be room for more curbside landscaping, hopefully including trees (although that might be going too far, since visibility to speeding motorists is so important).
Petro-Can will use the same bricks for its pedestrian pavers as those being used in the new Chinatown streetscaping (hopefully they get this right and use the Chinatown pavers and not the Bronson pavers, since we are trying to prioritize Somerset which is rudely interrupted by Bronson). They were not willing to add some Chinoiserie to the design.
I don’t have a picture of the new station layout, but the only other station I know of in the city with a version of this design (let me know if you have seen others) is at Iris and Greenbank, near Ikea, but is has no pedestrian doors to the sidewalk:
(photo above from Google Streetview).