Posted in: Commentary,
by Gregg Laskoski on May 6, 2013 02:30 PM
Gas stations are disappearing in Bethesda, MD. And there may be stations disappearing from many other suburbs too. The Washington Post says that in some suburbs of Washington DC, "gas stations are going the way of the drive-in movie."
Why would that be? There are more cars on the road than ever before.
But, experts say it's because of the economy, and specifically, commercial real estate and the value of vertical space. Are you seeing this where you live?
Increasing regulations and insurance requirements on gas stations have made it that much more difficult for small stations to make money, leaving owners more open to sell. According to the Washington Post, in one instance the owner of a BP station on Fairmont Avenue in Bethesda had his pumps removed in hopes of building a 17-story condo building.
And that's a transformation that's occurring in many areas, mostly where smaller stations of just a few pumps had operated for generations.
In Georgetown they've got three gas stations and Anthony Lanier, president of a commercial real estate development company there, says: "I think every one of those will be built on in the foreseeable future because of land values."
Of course, this trend is nothing new. Experts say gas stations have been vanishing from cities like New York and Washington DC for 20 years as real estate values outpace gasoline profits.
But other factors in the gas station business are weighing heavily too. Most rely heavily on profits from their convenience store, car washes and/or repair services and those are moneymakers that stations on small parcels cannot accommodate.
Over the past decade, Virginia has lost about 1,000 gas stations, dropping from 4,981 to 3,939. Over the same period, Maryland has lost about 400 stations. There are about 1,900 stations in Maryland today. Nationwide we have 140,000.
And, oddly enough, while we may see some stations disappear, the total number of gas pumps nationwide may actually be on the increase. As you'd guess, that's because the new stations are huge and positioned in centralized locations and traffic hubs. Yes, we lose the convenience of doing business in our neighborhood with the friendly local station owner we've known for years, but, that's what they call 'progress'.