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The Dark Wawa Rises

Step off the Dinky into the new station, and you enter a world transformed. After putting us through the ad hoc efficiency of the temporary Dinky station, Princeton has declared: Welcome to the future.

A soaring steel canopy over the Dinky station waiting room reaches for the heavens. Electronic signs announce the Dinky’s schedule.


Adjacent to all this is the new Wawa, a black-onyx proposition with large windows that is part Wawa, part stealth fighter. One half expects Michael Caine’s character from “Interstellar” to step outside and announce that once he has solved the problem of gravity and that he has transformed the WaWa into the premier spaceship of our generation.

My roommate said he thought the Wawa looked like a prison. I disagreed, saying that if the new Wawa looked like a prison, then it was the sexiest prison I had ever seen.

Designed by Arizona-based architect Rick Joy, it seems that the Dinky station and Wawa are meant to make Princeton look high-tech and sophisticated, to complete a gradual progression of modernity that stretches from I.M. Pei’s polarizing Spelman complex, past New South’s small, boxy tower and stretching to the forthcoming Arts Complex. But let’s be real: all of these modern buildings have actually been leading up to the Wawa. Like life’s evolution from amphibian to reptile to mammal, the new Wawa is the apotheosis of Princeton’s modern architecture scene.

One only has to enter Rick Joy’s new Wawa building to attain a sense of wonder that no other convenience store can muster. The old Wawa was homey in the sense of its storied past selling students coffee, hoagies and mixers late into the night. It was noble in that its façade resembled a minimalist evocation of the Alamo — squint a bit at its picture and you’ll know what I’m talking about. The new Wawa, however, is the future of convenience stores — fast, seductive and out-of-control.

Let me explain. Enter the building and witness the homage to the past with the stained glass banner of the previous store, giving the new Wawa a sense of continuity, kind of like a tattoo you got at Reunions that you can’t remove. Above the cashier’s desk is a circular skylight with a continuous, feathered design that, while impressive, is certainly not something you will notice when on your two a.m. drunchies trip.

Enter the bathroom’s frosted glass door and stare in awe at what seems a regal lavatory airlifted from a fine SoHo restaurant. The stalls have wood paneling. Wood paneling! Where am I, Campus Club’s second-floor spacious, individual stalls? Mirrors, tiling and fancy sinks complete the portrait of the heavenly restrooms. How is this a Wawa?


The impressive bathroom distracts from the quiet distinctions of the interior Wawa. Make your hoagie orders digitally as always, and, in a particular, corporate vision of the future, purchase any Coca-Cola beverage your blood pressure desires with that fancy soda fountain.

Emerging from the new Wawa unscathed, I was surprised at its incredible amenities, and the fact that so much has been invested in a convenience store. The University built the convenience store on a $330 millionbudget —admittedly some of that funding will build the accompanying Arts & Transit Complex, though in terms of priorities I’m sure the majority of the $330 million should have gone to Wawa. The gross domestic product of the island nation of Micronesia is $335 million. Better try to get ahead, Micronesia, while you still can!

Is the new Wawa a good allocation of resources? Let me think about that while I order my hoagie, eat it with Sriracha sauce and use that gorgeous bathroom.

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