Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Hyde Park Chilly but Cordial to ASC Redevelopment

Mercedes dealer has proposed a six-storey building that will replace the old building and the parking lot.

This artist's rendering shows the N. Glebe Road (foreground) at N. Randolph Street corner of the ASC proposed redevelopment. (Click to enlarge the image, provided by Lessard Commercial architects.)

Hyde Park Condominium residents were largely cordial to the representatives of American Service Center at a meeting of the two groups last night. Hyde Park invited ASC to present its plan to redevelop its Mercedes dealership at the N. Glebe Road at N. Randolph Street corner which ASC shares with Hyde Park.


Hyde Park board secretary Ronald Bashian opened the meeting saying it was “noteworthy and commendable” that ASC was redeveloping in this down economy, but that the 30 residents attending had questions.

“We don’t want to put American Service Center at a disadvantage,” against other companies in the area, he said near the end of the meeting.

The car dealership plans to redevelop all of its property where the current building and a surface-level parking lot now stand. As well, the company must remain open during the renovation of the building. This requires phased reconstruction that will take at least six years, officials said.

(Click to enlarge the image.)

The first section to go will be the parking lot at the corner of N. Glebe and N. Randolph. A six-storey addition will rise in its place. Given that the company must remain open, each new section will house a portion of the operation that will be dislocated in subsequent phases.

Phase I, for instance, will include a new employee break room and parts department because those two departments in the old building will be razed during Phase II. Only one section of the current building, along N. 5th Road, will remain when the reconstruction is complete.

The point of the renovation, officials said at last night’s meeting and during a tour of the facility last month, is to move the entire new car service and sales inside the building, and to allow all employees to park on site. Currently, some operations take place in various buildings in the Ballston area, and about 100 of the 250 employees park at the Ballston Commons mall parking lot, a block away. The blue car racks on N. Randolph Street, near the Super Pollo restaurant, will no longer be needed.

Roof-top parking, noise and lighting among Hyde Park's concerns

Hyde Park residents were concerned with the look of roof-top parking across N. Glebe from their east wall, with nighttime lighting, with the height and scale of the large building, with the noise of reconstruction, and with the impact on traffic.

One resident wondered about turning the roof of the building “green,” with shrubbery or trees.

“If you have a new building, you should change that because it’s ugly,” she said of the parking lot on top of the roof.

Architect Dave Clear addresses about 30 people at Hyde Park. (Click to enlarge the image.)

But Dave Clear, an architect with Lessard Commercial, said at last month’s tour that they cannot build the roof strong enough to support the heavier, green roof, especially if they are to have space enough for cars.

ASC officials shot down an underground parking garage because of the difficulty and expense. Above ground parking was hard enough, Mr. Clear said, calling the triangular shape of the site the “least efficient” shape for parking.

Hyde Park residents seemed happy to have ASC employees continue to park at the mall, if that meant ASC would take a storey or two off their building.

Another resident wondered about the noise of construction, especially given that the last reconstruction effort by the dealership a few years ago included nighttime demolition. General Manager Ralph Mastantuono said that was a unique situation because the building’s garage needed to be reinforced when fewer cars were present, that is, at night. That should not be the case with this reconstruction.

The residents gave mixed, generally unfavorable, reviews of the building’s facades, especially the one facing Hyde Park. It includes stainless steel mesh between the levels of the parking garage to keep birds away from the new cars, and to make the building look less like a garage, Mr. Clear said.

The façade at the corner of N. Glebe and N. Randolph, includes wavy aluminum, reminiscent of architect Frank Gehry’s work. Although many at the meeting complained of the look as too large, resident Alan Flora, an architect himself, said the structure “shows a progressiveness” that is not too often seen in Arlington. At the same time, he called the phasing “disjointed.” He was not overly impressed with the design.

Mr. Clear said one of the difficulties designing this project was that “most buildings have a back. Our building has no back.” Each side of the building must blend into the next side and must be able to be constructed in phases.

Patrick Brady, another resident and architect, said, “I was disappointed that they’re not going for more LEED points.” LEED is an independent certification process that determines how environmentally friendly a building is. According to a county report, the design has 24 LEED points, two shy of the lowest LEED certification.

Mr. Clear said they will be looking more closely at the certification in the future. When to apply in a phased project like this is a consideration.

The project has come before the county's Site Plan Review Committee twice, once for design and once for other issues. The SPRC is a sub-committee of the Planning Commission and is made up of county staff and citizens, including some from the Ashton Heights neighborhood, where the building is located.

“We’re focused on how the building looks and operates,” said Rich Dooley, the county’s lead planner on this project. “Does it meet what the people want?” he asked, “It remains to be seen.”

(Click to enlarge the image.)

Related stories including artist renderings…
  • Mercedes Dealer to Redevelop
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