It comes as no surprise that the opening of a convenience store selling almost nothing that anybody should eat or drink creates little excitement in the surrounding community.
Since this isn’t a food or health column, but one about urban design and architecture, I will focus on the wrapper in which a new Baltimore 7-Eleven is encased. The store opened in the spring at West Franklin and North Paca streets after just a few months of construction.
Like tourists wearing sombreros in Mexico or lederhosen in Bavaria, retail buildings often masquerade in garb inspired by local cliches — mission-style, colonial or anything in between. What constitutes a mere laughable nuisance in suburban shopping centers, however, becomes architectural assault in an urban historic district.
At first, seeing a barren surface parking lot being dug up by heavy equipment in late winter inspired hope in this corner of Baltimore’s west side, an area largely unaccustomed to investment and construction.
But the strip footing and tiny trenches for wastewater lines foreshadowed hastily erected spindly steel columns, confirming that whatever was being built here couldn’t be of any substance.
Disappointment turned into disbelief once all the sticks and beams were connected with astounding speed, revealing the shape of a giant shoebox, with the lid hovering one story above it.
That extra level mystified everybody around and became the talk at Trinacria Deli, a nearby restaurant, grocery and wine shop. No stairs led up to the lofty height, even though steel decking seemed to indicate a real second floor.
In quick succession, wall studs and window framing formed walls and horizontal punch-out openings on two levels. The overall appearance was that of a 5-year-old having decorated a sideways milk carton to look like a house.
Continue reading Architecture review: Abominable 7-Eleven Disfigures a Baltimore Historic District [Baltimore Business Journal]