Preservation Maryland, a nonprofit organization focused on preserving "places that matter for future and current generations," launched a petition on its website Monday that is aimed at preserving the aging but iconic Bel-Loc Diner in Parkville.
Starbucks Corporation has submitted a plan to Baltimore County officials that calls for removing the 3,419-square-foot diner, which opened in 1964, and replacing it with a 1,850-square-foot coffee shop.
The preservation group's petition calls for Starbucks to save the existing building and incorporate it into its plan for the coffee shop.
"It could be the most unique Starbucks in Maryland if they did it right," Preservation Maryland Executive Director Nicholas Redding said Monday. "I think with the right amount of creativity and innovation pretty much any structure can be saved."
The diner's owner, Bill Doxanas, has said that he is negotiating the sale of the building to Starbucks. According to state real estate records, Doxanas still owns the property and building at 1700 East Joppa Road. The diner is open for breakfast and lunch.
Recently, Starbucks moved a step closer to realizing its plan for the site when Baltimore County's Design Review Panel approved its proposal.
Starbucks officials agreed to include a portion of the diner's original sign in its plan for the coffee shop. The "Bel-Loc" portion of the sign, a long-standing neon beacon atop the diner, would be placed on the side of the new Starbucks. In the event it is impossible to move the sign, a replica might be used, according to the proposal.
In a note Monday on the Bel-Loc Diner's Facebook page, a representative of the diner thanked the "millions" of customers, friends, family and employees the diner has served in its 52 years, but said that preserving the existing building wasn't feasible.
"While it was not an easy decision to eventually close, we are currently working with Starbucks to take over our location," the note stated. "There is nothing official yet but we ask that you support the owner's decision on this. Unfortunately, it will not be possible to preserve the current structure."
In a June 15 letter to the Baltimore County Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections regarding the Starbucks proposal, county planning director Andrea Van Arsdale wrote that the "existing 3,419 [square foot] diner was thought to be repurposed, but there proved to be too many challenges for that to be possible."
County Councilman David Marks, who represents the Joppa Road corridor, said the diner building is deteriorating and contains asbestos, a carcinogenic material commonly used in construction during the era in which the diner was built.
The new Starbucks would be about half the size of the current structure — a reduction that makes room for a proposed drive-through lane.
"As soon as I learned about the Starbucks sale, I called their headquarters in Seattle and asked them to consider reusing the diner," Marks said Monday in an email. "Their architects told me what is obvious to anyone who has seen the property: the building is deteriorating, and it is impossible to build a drive-thru lane because of the size of the lot. Faced with the limitations of the property, I have focused on preserving elements of the Bel-Loc Diner into whatever comes next."
Starbucks officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Doxanas was not available to comment Monday afternoon, a diner representative said.
Redding said he respects the owner's decision to sell. However, at other locations, Starbucks has reused existing structures, he said, adding that he believes that a similar opportunity exists in Parkville.
Although the diner isn't hundreds of years old, it nonetheless has value to the community, Redding said.