Wawa representatives presented its application for a proposed Super Wawa at the Media Borough Planning Commission meeting Wednesday.
The Super Wawa is proposed for the currently vacant lot, border by Providence Road, Baltimore Avenue and State Street, where the Media Inn once stood.
This was the first preliminary hearing of the application and will likely see many meetings and much discussion before any decisions are made. Wawa had presented "concept plans" prior to this preliminary hearing to get a sense of where the borough and the public stand on the project.
The project is currently scheduled to be back before the Planning Commission on Jan. 8.
Wawa's proposal currently includes the convenience store, 72 parking spaces and an eight pump, canopy gas station on the 1.73 acre lot. There would be three access points to the property, along each roadway, and a brick, street wall along the perimeter which would include "Welcome to Media" signage and logo. Wawa's store signage would also sit low on the ground level and would not be a typical poled sign, up in the air. The store would be brick, rather than the typical stucco and standard borough street lighting would be used around the perimeter. Small sitting areas are also currently included on the Baltimore Avenue side and near the State Street entrance.
The applicant would need Media Borough Council approval to purchase and alter Baker Street, which runs through the proposed Wawa and would need to be altered in order for the project to move forward. Baker Street is owned by the borough. Wawa is proposing to turn Baker Street at a 90 degree angle, at the end of a row of houses, to run behind the proposed Wawa and on to State Street.
Zoning changes and variances would also need to be approved. The lots are currently zoned HBO, highway-business-office district, with a TND overlay, traditional-neighborhood district.
Because the Lukoil gas station is within 500 feet of the property, a variance would be needed, because although the BP gas station that currently sits on the lot would be removed. The BP section of the lot is currently zoned residential so a variance would be needed to zone it back for commercial use.
"These things have to happen in order for us to move forward," Robert Linn, architect for the project, said.
The two existing Wawa's in Rose Tree and Media Borough would continue to operate normal, Linn said, there are no plans to close either of those stores.
Traffic was one of the largest issues concerning the project.
Matt Hammond, the project's traffic engineer, presented the commission with a traffic impact study in late October and is still under review by the commission.
Hammond explained that the site would have three access points. One on the State Street side and Baltimore Avenue side and a right-in and right-out, only on the Providence Road side.
The possibility of widening State Street to create a right-turning lane onto Providence Road is also an option for the project which could help with the already congested area and the trolley tracks, Hammond said. Optimizing the traffic signals at both intersections would also make traffic flow more efficiently, he said.
Hammond explained, as he has previously, that a Wawa generates mostly "passer-by trips" rather than "new trips." Meaning, people who are already driving or passing by, enroute to a destination, will stop at the Wawa but people driving to a new office building or destination that now exists at the location, would bring "new" traffic to the area. So a Wawa would bring less new traffic to the area, than an office building or other destination, would bring, he explained.
"These people are already on the roadway," Hammond said. "They stop and continue on their way. Wawa would not bring significantly more traffic."
Hammond's traffic impact study concluded that Wawa would bring 64 new trips or 32 cars, between peak hours of 7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m.
He said little can be done at the Providence Road and Baltimore Avenue intersection as far as widening the roadway because of the way the intersection is currently developed. So that intersection would stay status quo, with some traffic signal improvements, if a Wawa were approved.
"It's what we can do beyond that intersection to improve things," Hammond said.
Improving the State Street entrance and creating a right-turning lane onto Providence Road would improve that intersection, he said.
Also, having three access points, rather than two, provides a safer and more adequate option to drivers.
"They have multiple choices and paths but not too many either," Hammond said, "It's a balance."
About 40 to 50 people attended the hearing from multiple municipalities and opinions were both for and against the project. However, almost everyone, regardless of whether they were in favor of the project, agreed that traffic was a concern in that area.
Residents of Mulberry Lane said they already experience too much traffic due to cars cutting down their street to avoid Baltimore Avenue. They doubted that a Wawa would not increase traffic in their neighborhood.
Another resident said truck deliveries to Starbucks now cause major back ups along Providence Road and trucks delivering to Wawa too would only increase the problem at the busy intersection.
One woman said if a Wawa gas station opens, the other gas stations in the immediate area, like Lukoil, Sunoco and Getty, all along Baltimore Avenue, would eventually shut down and those properties would sit vacant.
Joe Dougherty, of Nether Providence Township, said Wawa is not a good gateway to Media and that intersection should be a true gateway to the borough.
However, Austin Connors, of Media, said he thought the Wawa was an asset to the borough and commended the design, saying it had the potential to draw people and business further in to Media.
A Jackson Street resident said a gateway to Media is currently missing at that intersection and this Wawa design would be a beautiful gateway. He said the design matches Media Borough's style.
Drew Arata, Media resident and owner of Earth and State, said although Wawa is a corporation it is also a Media neighbor and having a flagship Wawa in Media is an opportunity.
"They will re-invest back in our town," Arata said. "It's a commercial property there and if it's not a local company, it could be something else and we don't have control over it beyond our ordinances."
Providence Road resident Carol Riley, who is also a local business owner, agreed that a Wawa has potential to bring in business and said she liked the design.
"It's a convenience store, that's all, but look how it pops," Riley said.
Planning Commission Opinion
A few of the planning commission's concerns included traffic, the number of parking spaces, energy efficiency including putting solar panels on top of the gas canopy, more seating or cafe style seating outside, adding more trees or greenery and adding an electric car charging station.
"Be a part of the community. Make it a flagship," Planning Commission Vice Chairman Michael Kinsley said. "I don't see it now. I see it as your Florida prototype, with brick."
Kinsley said he was disappointed that a solar panel or electric car charging station was not included in the plan.
Wawa representative Michael Viscuso said a car charging station is a good idea but it does not fit in Wawa's convenience model since the fastest charging station takes about 15 minutes to charge a car.
Kinsley countered saying that if Wawa were a destination to sit and have lunch then it would work.
"Now, you're asking us to change who we are as a company," Viscuso said. "That's a good idea, but we're not there yet."
Kinsley replied, "I am asking you to change who you are as a company because I'm asking for a flagship store for Media."
Viscuso said changing the architecture of a store and changing the way the company operates are two different things.
"We're not going to sell products here that we don't sell anywhere else," Viscuso said."If we can look different that's fine, but we can't change who we are as a company."
The commission also seemed split on whether the project needed more or less than 72 parking spaces.
Kinsley said he had never seen a local Wawa with a full parking lot and would prefer more trees and cafe seating on the lot and less parking spaces. However, Commission Member Emily Miller said she would rather have too many parking spaces than not have a enough and referenced the lack of spaces in the Starbucks parking lot.