Auto Dealership Renovation

Date: 08/16/16

Q: Can you tell us about your love of cars?
I have loved cars from an early age, beginning with toy cars then as a teen putting together my father’s non-running 1955 Ford Victoria for my first-driver. After college, I arrived in Tacoma where I met a local engineer, and I was able to help with his Formula Ford racing effort. This bolstered my understanding of auto racing and sparked my interest to try vintage racing with a historic 1959 Alfa Romeo Guilietta Sprint in the local SOVREN racing series. I have been  competing for over 20 years and I now drive a newer 1969 Alfa Romeo GTV.

For my first automotive  dealership design project, I was fortunate to have been the project architect on the new BMW dealership in Fife during the late 1980’s, while also getting to know the Scharmach family. Our relationship continues today, including a recent renovation of that original dealership to meet current BMW design standards. 

My affection for racing and the automobile has been passed on to my son, Parker, who I was excited to race with over the 4th of July weekend at the Pacific NW Historics (he raced in the Pro3 BMW class, winning 3 races).  We also had the opportunity to travel  to Italy last summer and attended the Italian Formula One Grand Prix at Monza as well as visit several exotic auto manufacturers, including the Pagani factory.

Q: What is your favorite car?
The Alfa Romeo TZ (Tubolare Zagato), a car jointly designed by Alfa Romeo and Zagato, specifically to compete in European racing starting in 1963.  112 cars were built to meet homologation (certification) requirements of the time, making it very valuable today.

Q: How does your love of cars  influence your work as an architect, particularly on renovating auto dealerships?
Being involved with auto dealerships and other automotive design projects is natural and exciting to me.  These projects celebrate the automobile from many perspectives as well as provide opportunity to reflect aspects of cars in the building design, through the use of materials, dimensions and overall presentation.  I enjoy the design progression from the owner’s original idea, to our concept sketches, the construction drawings development and ultimately the construction of the facility which brings the idea to life.

Q: What automotive dealership renovation projects have you recently worked on?
Two of our most recent projects were the renovation of the existing Titus-Will Ford Dealership in Tacoma and also the BMW Northwest expansion project in Fife.

Q: What are some of the challenges you faced with these projects?
One of the biggest challenges with both projects, and any renovation project, is continuing business operations throughout the duration of the project. For both Titus-Will Ford and BMW Northwest, phasing, or working on one portion of the building at a time,  was key  to ensure success. We worked with the owners and the contractors to make sure everything was safe for customers and staff, and they were able to continue their activities while staying away from the construction zones. Phasing was achieved by setting up modular buildings and rotating department locations  while their particular area of the project was under construction.

Q: What are some important design considerations when renovating dealerships?
The first step is to layout the detailed needs and goals for the project (programming) and compare them with our client’s budget. The owner, contractor and architect all need to be in sync to make sure that everything runs smoothly and on-budget. There are always unknowns and they can create issues if we don’t have a clear understanding of the budget.

There are two key department functions to consider when programming dealerships – sales and service. It is important to have a clear understanding of how to make the two areas separate spaces while also remaining connected; working together cohesively. Customers need to be able to participate in both functions within a safe environment.

Q: What considerations do dealerships need to take into account when deciding whether to build a new facility, or renovate an existing dealership?
When deciding whether to build a new facility or renovate, there are many questions that need to be asked: Do they want to stay on the current site or relocate? Does it make sense financially to renovate or build a new facility? Does the existing building have any structural issues that can impact the project? Will the existing building accommodate all required corporate brand elements and designs?

Q: How would you define a successful project?
A successful project is when everyone (the manufacturer, dealer, contractor, staff, and owners) are all happy with the completed project and it has come in on-budget. There are always going to be a few small issues that come up, but the most important thing is that everyone is happy in the end. Both of our recent projects were very successful and met
everyone’s expectations.