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New Life for Dead Gas Stations

Finding new uses for vacant gas stations is a major challenge throughout the U.S. The days of the small, independent service station are fading, yet they often occupy prime, gateway sites. Whether razed or transformed, challenges are formidable.
July 30, 2012, 5am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Commercial real estate reporter, Ronda Kaysen describes the challenges of finding new uses for closed gas stations. She focuses on the transformations of two closed stations in NY.

"More than 50,000 stations have closed since 1991 when there were nearly 200,000 nationwide, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores.

(C)onverting these sites can be challenging. They often are on small lots and may be contaminated by petroleum leaking from underground storage tanks, as was the case in High Falls (in the Hudson Valley).

Petroleum brownfields - ground contaminated or thought to be contaminated by fuel - make up half of the 450,000 brownfields in the country, according to the Environmental Protection Agency."

The High Falls station is being converted at a cost of $300,000 "into a yoga studio, wellness center and a charging station for electric cars (and) has turned the eyesore into a symbol of this struggling community's revival." Offices will be on a second story.

"But it is not always easy to persuade developers to invest in a property that may need costly environmental cleanup. The High Falls station cost the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation more than $100,000 to clean up in 2001."

The Long Island City (Queens) service station has undergone a $1 million transformation into the Breadbox Cafe, but it is part of a long-term plan to build a high rise building on it and a functioning Getty gas station adjacent to it.

"The main challenge is changing people's perception," said the restaurant's architect, Eran Chen, a principal at ODA-Architecture. "How do you create an attractive food space in a place that used to service cars?"

Full Story:
Published on Tuesday, July 10, 2012 in The New York Times - Commercial
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