Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Place-making / Livability: Building Renovation / Case Study #1

As a follow up to my last post regarding renovating existing buildings, our firm recently completed the renovation of Stony Point Plaza shopping center in Santa Rosa.   The Center is over 25 years old and was one of its first in-line big box retail centers.  The Owner’s program was to convert 2 vacant big-box in-line retail spaces into 5 smaller retail spaces with a design that would be economically feasible. 
The existing architecture consists mainly of a low profile mansard roofline, concrete block walls and minimal storefront.  The resulting appearance is fortress-like, top-heavy with minimal visibility into the retail spaces.  The Center’s large parking lot and tree canopy in front results in a diminished presence from Stony Point Road.  The outdoor hardscape in the center portion of the in-line big-box layout is not integrated with retail uses and lacks well-defined areas for pedestrian use.
Our design goal was to create a new identity for the center that visually breaks the monotonous and bland appearance of the existing buildings while enhancing open spaces for pedestrian uses.  Our design strategies included the following:
  1. New pedestrian enhancements to include widening the sidewalk in front of the buildings with tree wells, a new path from the Center to the Joe Rodota Bike Trail and completing the walkway from Stony Point Road to reinforce the Center’s connection to other surrounding uses.
  2. New prominent architectural entry features for retail tenants that  break the long horizontal plane of the mansard roof, provide vertical lift, lightness and visual interest. 
  3. The use of a repetitive form that serves to interrupt the existing monotonous skyline of mansard and parapet and provides visual rhythm, human scale and focal points of orientation.
  4. Integrate signage for new tenants in a clear, well-defined manner.
  5. Increase the amount of storefront in the vacant spaces, providing more visibility for pedestrian movement along the building frontage.
  6. Soften concrete masonry walls along the east façade with landscape & screens to reduce the harsh expanse of remaining blank walls.
  7. Redesign the existing plaza by defining smaller activity spaces through a combination of in-ground planters, raised seat wall, benches and shade canopy,
  8. Development of a public space at the west end of the in-line small shops that will serve as a focal point, accommodate bike parking and informal gatherings.
  9. The use of colored stamped concrete to further define plaza areas.

While renovating the buildings was not the only option considered, it represents good environmental stewardship. The use of existing materials minimizes the use of new resources.  The installation of new energy efficient mechanical systems for the new tenants will save energy, and the installation of cool roofs will reduce cooling loads for users.  Water conservation will be achieved through the installation of water saving plumbing fixtures in new restrooms and drip irrigation for new landscape areas.  The installation of vertical landscape screens to soften blank walls will reduce reflective heat on adjacent pedestrian areas.
By the completion of construction, new leases for 75% of the 106,000 square feet of vacant space were executed.  The Center’s new life has boosted the economy of the area by creating more jobs and generating increased sales tax revenue to the City.   Recently the Center’s renovation was recognized by the North Bay Business Journal as the “Top Retail Project” for 2011 in the North Bay
The more the public hears about local success stories, the more likely we will begin to transform suburbia towards better, more livable communities.  We’d like to hear about any recent, noteworthy renovation projects that add to this discussion and warrants our readers’ attention.
Your comments and ideas are welcomed…
Tony Battaglia, AIA (tony

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