Demolished Powell Shell Station to be rebuilt, integrated better with Bay Trail

Published On May 27, 2014 | By Rob Arias | News & Commentary, Planning & Development

Highway 80 commuters who pull off at the Powell exit to fill up at the Shell Station may be in for a bit of shock … it’s gone! It will be back though. The redesigned 1/2 acre station will include a larger 2,700 sq. ft. convenience store (previously only 500 Sq. ft.), a realigned drive-thru car wash, new landscaping and amenities for Bay Trail users. The twelve pumping stations will be reduced to ten to accommodate the larger store.

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The complete reconstruction of this gas station was approved by the Planning Commission back in June 2013 and a building permit was just recently issued on May 2nd. The demolition of the site still seemed rather abrupt leaving commuters and residents scrambling for other fueling options.

According to Planning & Building Director Charlie Bryant, It may be “the world’s most bicycle-friendly gas station”. The Frontage Road sidewalk will be reconstructed as a Class I bike path and include an “enlarged plaza” at the corner of Frontage and Powell that will include a bike fix-it station, Bay Trail map, additional signage, public accessible bathrooms, bike racks & benches. There will also be trail-crossing warning signs for cars using the Frontage Road driveway.

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Criticisms of the project

The franchise, owned by AU Energy in Fremont, presented their plans designed by M I Architects in Walnut Creek last June. The additional bike amenities will be welcomed and needed as we inch closer to our connection with Treasure Island in 2015 that will surely increase its use by riders & pedestrians … but the project still disappoints in some regards. The design of the station is a complete cookie-cutter and decisions on materials seem more focussed on saving a few dollars than creating anything enduring. The design review portion on page 7 of the 72-page staff report acknowledges this by annotating that it does indeed not meet the guidelines of “creativity with architectural features” and lacks incorporation of public art.

It’s another missed opportunity for E’ville to honor its industrial heritage, craft its own identity and incorporate more “signature” buildings into its landscape (Yes, even something as mundane as a service station can be at least made visually interesting). The more I pay attention to city politics, the more I realize the importance of our Planning Commission to keep on eye on these decisions. Small & big decisions that contribute to the collective identity and aesthetic of our city. They are indeed our first line of defense and tasked with filtering through all the complicated details of a plan, ask the right questions and make the right recommendations.

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This Fremont Shell station off Automall is an example of a station that created something unique.

The project was approved by the commission 6-0. Approval The complete Planning Commission staff report can be Read Here although final conditions of approval including the obligation of the station to maintain the bike fixit station, public access to bathrooms and the addition of more trees are not reflected here. We’ve reached out to the owners of the station for a timeline for the project, which could not be provided by the City Planning & Building department.

The Planning Commission presentation & approval can be viewed on the EPOA YouTube Channel:

About The Author

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who moved to Emeryville in 2003. A new parent in the community, he can often be seen walking his French Bulldog rescue "Fiona" around his Park Avenue District neighborhood, traversing the greenway on his bike or enjoying his favorite Emeryville small businesses. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

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