Ask Bungalower: Why do the Downtown 7-Elevens look the way they do?

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83 E. Colonial Drive
Our readers like to ask a lot of questions. Which is great, because we like to be nosy. This time though, we had to defer to an expert.
“The recent report on the many new 7-Eleven locations had me thinking… What’s up with the outlandish architecture of the 7-Elevens around Downtown (e.g. Colonial and Magnolia, home of the best 2:30am party spectacle in the region)?” – Ross Cooper, Audubon Park
Cooper went on to ask, “Why do they have the outer wall and strange terraced roof? Was that a city code thing (in other words the City of Orlando wanted/didn’t want traditional looking gas station corners) or just something 7-Eleven the company experimented with? I have really only seen a handful of similar-looking stations in my life so it’s odd that we have at least two in the area, but also odd that they are not all in that style around town.”

 

Great question, Mr. Cooper. We went straight to Jason Burton, the Chief Planner at the City of Orlando, who was more than happy to give us the following explanation.

“The simple answer is that these projects are within the Traditional City Overlay of the City of Orlando.

“This area is the pre-World War II section of the City. There is a traditional neighborhood design zoning overlay for this area that requires commercial buildings be pulled up to the street (there are maximum setbacks for buildings, rather than minimum setbacks that you typically find in suburban situations).   Thus, the 7-11’s on Colonial throughout town are required to have a “streetwall”, or building presence, pulled up to the street (think of the two new 7-11’s at Colonial and Fern Creek and Edgewater, too).  This prevents the urban form of the entire street from experiencing “gaps” in the architectural form when multiple properties are considered together.   The Colonial and Magnolia 7-11 was built some time ago, but was built on the same principal; however, it being built within the Downtown also required that the site meet minimum development standards for square footage on the site (in zoning terms, this is a minimum FAR).  This was accomplished with the canopy and details, that people have come to know today as being somewhat unique, so that the area could be considered part of the “building”.  Thus, the project was determined to meet the minimum square footage requirements for Downtown.”

“In the early 90’s, the 7-Eleven design was considered to meet both the minimum FAR requirements of the Downtown Zoning District (AC-3A/T) and the streetwall (maximum setback) requirements of the Traditional City zoning overlay.  In the mid-to-late 2000’s, a similar design was approved for the 7-Eleven at Princeton and Orange near Florida Hospital.  While that site did not have the same minimum FAR requirements that we have in Downtown Orlando, the property owner thought it was such a distinctive and likable design that they utilized a similar design for this new site.”

“The more recent locations approved along Colonial (Edgewater, Fern Creek) follow an updated approach that has evolved – where the building itself is pulled up to the street to create more pedestrian friendliness.  In these areas it is preferred that the automobile uses (parking lots, drive-thru’s, etc.) are located behind or to the side of buildings to create that continuous streetwall effect. The idea is that a pedestrian should not have to rummage through a parking lot – or gas canopies – in order to access the retail services.  It also brings a building presence towards the street to passively monitor it (a Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design principle).”

“These maximum building setbacks, minimum FAR and other requirements are what we in the city planning profession call a light “form-based” regulation. In other words, these requirements are focused on building placement and design to create a more complete urban fabric that is multi-modal, de-emphasizes the automobile and considers the context of the surroundings, rather than exclusively accommodating the automobile.”

So there you go, Ross Cooper. Scroll down to see some shots of local 7-Elevens.

Editor’s Note: We still want sun shade structures over all of the 7-Eleven parking lots, especially in Thornton Park.

83 E. Colonial Drive
83 E. Colonial Drive
1 N. Rosalind Avenue
124 W. Pine Street
30 N. Summerlin Avenue

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