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BP plans 20 high-tech stations

(Published September 24, 2001)

By KATHRYN SINZINGER

Staff Writer

BP Amoco Corp. wants to locate 20 of its new high-tech, 24-hour "BP Connect" convenience store/gas stations in the District but is so far meeting overwhelming opposition from residents of two Northeast Washington neighborhoods in which it has sought to build.

Opposition to the company’s plans to build on a vacant lot at 13th Street and Rhode Island Avenue NE appears so unanimous that a company official announced to residents at a recent Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting that BP Amoco has asked the Board of Zoning Adjustment to delay an Oct. 2 public hearing on its plans.

Previously, residents along the H Street commercial corridor registered their objections to the company’s plans to expand a smaller Amoco station at Third and H streets NE into one of the oil giant’s new-concept stations. Plans for that station are temporarily on hold as the company tries to determine whether it can resolve the neighborhood’s objections.

"BP Connect" stations include Internet kiosks at the gas pumps, which allow customers to check weather or traffic reports, print maps and directions or get up-to-the-minute news reports. The stations also include solar powered canopies, a car wash and a convenience store with a gourmet coffee shop that offers specialty soups, custom-made sandwiches and pastries among its fare.

Company officials said they have been puzzled by D.C. residents’ vehement objections to their plans. BP Connect stations have been successfully introduced into the Atlanta and Indianapolis areas, company officials said. The company expects to close many of its older, smaller Amoco stations in the District as it upgrades to the newer ones.

"Our grand plan is about 20 of these BP Connects throughout the District in the next two to three years," BP’s John R. Lombardo told ANC 5C during a presentation at its Sept. 18 meeting. Lombardo declined to answer residents’ questions about other planned locations in the District, calling that information "propriety." He said the company has discussed its plans with Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Eric Price.

Lombardo said his company would close its existing Amoco stations at Fourth Street and Rhode Island Avenue NE and at Eastern and Rhode Island Avenues if it goes forward with plans to build a BP Connect at 13th and Rhode Island. He said the company also is willing to alter its sleek design to include brick features or gabled roofs to more closely resemble its surroundings.

"I don’t think a pretty gas station is what that community needs right now," one neighborhood resident told Lombardo.

Many people at the meeting voiced objections to increased traffic, especially in light of the new Kmart/Giant/Home Depot development under construction a few blocks away. Others talked about a 24-hour store potentially becoming a magnet for increased prostitution or illegal drug activity that has plagued the area.

Many at the meeting also seemed to echo Raenelle Zapata’s sentiments when the neighbor of the 13th Street site told Lombardo that she’s one of BP Amoco’s gasoline customers. "I have nothing against your product. I just don’t like where you want to put it," she said.

After other commissioners’ comments made apparent their opposition to BP Amoco’s plans, ANC 5C Chairman James Berry attempted a diplomatic explanation before joining his fellow commissioners in a unanimous vote against the new gas station.

"What’s you’ve missed here is the dreams of those of us who have been here, who have lived in this community for years....We look for the more promising possibilities for that location," Berry began. "The fact is, we live here and we have to live with the aftermath....This [development] would betray our commitment to this community."

Lombardo conceded, as residents talked about other possibilities for the site, that his company’s business is to build gas stations: "We know it’s a gas station – no one is excited about a gas station."

Copyright 2001, The Common Denominator