Preservationists Still Hoping to Salvage Some of the Bel-Loc Diner

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The Bel-Loc Diner in 2012, via Bel-Loc Diner/Facebook

If Starbucks won’t save the entire Bel-Loc Diner when it builds a new branch at Loch Raven Boulevard and Joppa Road, will it at least salvage the most important pieces?

That’s the question from Preservation Maryland, the statewide advocacy group that has been trying to persuade Starbucks to recycle the existing Bel-Loc Diner for its new Parkville branch, rather than tear it down and start over.

Sunday is the last day of business for the diner, whose owner is retiring. According to Preservation Maryland, Starbucks now owns the corner property and hasn’t agreed to preserve the diner in its entirety.

“They just weren’t interested,” said Elly Cowan, director of engagement for Preservation Maryland.

This month, Preservation Maryland made one last plea to the Seattle-based coffee chain, asking it to dismantle the 1964 building carefully and incorporate parts of it in the new construction – or let others find a home for them – rather than demolish it and send the debris to a landfill. “Deconstruct, don’t demolish,” is the message.

Since Preservation Maryland launched its campaign to save the Bel-Loc Diner last June, “thousands of Marylanders signed a petition encouraging Starbucks to reuse the building and dozens of media outlets reported on public support for the glistening mid-century modern diner,” the preservationists wrote in a recent update.

The group said it had “broad public support for the adaptive reuse of the building” and assembled drawings and schematics that showed reuse was a “viable alternative,” but said, “Starbucks has been unwilling to consider reuse and is moving forward with their demolish-and-replace plans. Without any regulatory requirement to save the structure, Starbucks has the full authority to move forward.”

Now, the group is trying to salvage at least some of the pieces by deconstructing the building, not sending what it calls “irreplaceable materials” to the dump.

“While not the best-case-scenario, deconstruction would save signage, panels and interior materials from becoming construction refuse and instead provide materials for other recent past rehabilitation projects,” the group wrote in its March 15 update.

Cowan said the organization is hoping to hear back from Starbucks representatives about whether they will agree to salvage any elements from the diner.

“The building has been sold,” she said. “We are still reaching out to them with that as an option. Unfortunately, we haven’t received any positive feedback from them since the sale has gone through.”

Cowan said Starbucks representatives did not show interest in recycling the entire building in part because they want to have a drive-thru window, which the diner doesn’t have.

“Even though we were able to show renderings demonstrating how they would be able to save it, they were not receptive to that,” she said.

Starbucks representatives did not respond to calls and email messages this week seeking information about their plans for the diner.

Ongoing demolition at York Road and Regester Avenue to make room for a new Starbucks.

Cowan said Preservation Maryland’s options are limited because the diner is not protected by any sort of landmark designation. In addition, Baltimore County’s Design Review Panel last year approved Starbucks’ design for a replacement coffee shop with a drive-thru.

Bel-Loc Diner has invited customers to “join us for a meal or two,” before the business closes on Sunday. Cowan said Preservation Maryland isn’t planning any kind of demonstration this weekend, the way Rodgers Forge residents have protested a Starbucks planned for York Road and Regester Avenue. A former bank building was demolished to make way for that branch.

Cowan said she is hoping Starbucks will at least follow the suggestion about deconstructing the diner.

“We’re waiting to hear back,” she said. “We’re sad that this is where we ended up. We tried. We really tried. But unfortunately, the sale has gone through and Starbucks has not been receptive. Our hands are tied in a lot of ways.”

Ed Gunts

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