High Concrete Group LLC has introduced ThinCastTM, the thinnest precast concrete rainscreen panel available on the market. Designed for use in commercial, institutional, retail, and low- to high-rise construction, this innovation provides architects with the natural beauty and character of concrete in lightweight panels that accomplish their rainscreen design goals.
Location: Paramus, N.J.
Type of Precast: MEGA-TEE® Double Tees, spandrels, shear walls
Size: 686,000 sq. ft., five stories, 1,700 spaces with 95,000 sq. ft. retail on double tees
Mall makeover centers on integrating parking and retail in precast structure
Double tees unite complex garage and retail spaces
Upscale facade is sensitive to neighbors
Major mall makeover centers on integrating parking and retail in precast structure
In 2009 a $171 million transformation of the 50-year-old Bergen Mall in Paramus, N.J. was completed. In its first major makeover since 1973, the state’s oldest shopping mall had become the Bergen Town Center with a new complement of retailers and an elegant new look. At the center of the plan, designer Desman Associates deftly placed 1,700 of those spaces in a five-story, 636,000 sq. ft. integrated garage from High Concrete Group LLC.
Paramus is a retail shopping Mecca, and Bergen Town Center is one of four supermalls attracting the affluent from nearby New York City and the surrounding area. New owner Vornado Realty’s vision was to make the mall a destination in itself. Besides upgraded retail stores, signature food and designer-brand bargains, planners knew that plenty of parking, and getting shoppers in and out with ease, was critical the project’s success. So they revamped the lots to create 5,602 spaces.
Town Center shoppers expect generous spaces to be conveniently located whether they park for several hours or the whole day. The 1,700-space garage not only accommodates their parking needs; it seamlessly incorporates 95,000 sq. ft. of retail space on top of double tees within the structure itself. “We chose precast for this project because of cost,” says project architect Bob Weissenborn, formerly of Desman Associates and now with Experion Design. “It is lower in cost that cast-in-place, and has benefits over steel because of fire rating requirements.” He notes that a value-engineering review had eliminated a false applied facade, clearing the way for a decorative thin brick veneer on the structural precast spandrels and walls.
Garage and retail spaces are sandwiched together
Built over a surface lot and older retail space, the garage comprises three seismic structures utilizing interior shear walls and light walls on the ramps. Double tees fit into pockets on spandrels and on corbels on load bearing walls. The mall is sandwiched in between parking levels on the south side. “The challenge on this project was to hit the car count and integrate the fire-rated retail area,” says Weissenborn. “Because of the site limitations we designed 30’ and 45’ grids for High’s 15’-wide MEGA-TEE double tees at a 30-3/4” depth spanning up to 60’. This kept columns to a minimum and provided the most open and flexible space possible while delivering a two-hour fire rating.”
In the retail area, High Concrete Group supplied the double tees untopped so that field-applied concrete could be used to match the floor to the existing mall corridor elevation which varied. The additional concrete helped accomplish the required two-hour fire rating in this area. Higher 12’6” floor to floor ceiling heights with 9’ clearance accommodate the town’s dedicated mini-pumper used for active fire protection in the garage. The mini-pumper places extra structural loads on the double tees, requiring deeper tee stems and flanges of 4-3/4” thickness, which also provided the two-hour separation for the retail are above, below and adjacent to the garage.
The garage has easy-to-navigate 26’-wide two-way drive aisles, and traditional 90-degree front-in parking with 9’ x 18’ spaces. There are two entrances/exits on opposite sides of the building to help move cars in and out easily even in peak hours. Shoppers have their choice of three exterior glass stair towers. Lighting is accomplished with metal halide fixtures. Garage ventilation is half natural and half mechanical with vertical shafts keeping the air moving through the lower levels.
Upscale facade is sensitive to neighbors
Among its most important features is an integrated facade design that is sensitive to nearby residential neighborhoods. While the garage side of the project faces the highway, designers also used cornices and strong lintels and sills on residential style windows to deemphasize the mass of the structure.
Shoppers are greeted by distinguished limestone-look arch elements that correspond to arches used on the mall. The limestone look is particularly important to the project, says Weissenborn. “The cornices project out beyond the face of the building and create depth. At the level of pedestrian view, the blocks create a look of upscale solidity that promises shoppers of a worthwhile retail experience.” Panel bases have the appearance of cut buff-colored limestone, and are visually anchored with large blocks and then topped with a cornice.
Above the garage base, the walls include a 40-40-20 mix of red thin brick shades with black ironspot stippling. The arches appear in narrower panel sections with lighter colored red thin brick on the second and third floors above. The narrower sections alternate with wider panels that have two square openings at the base and a slightly darker red thin brick veneer above. Windows are simulated by keystones and aluminum-framed openings.
The thin brick was applied on course and on panel in a running bond. The thin brick-veneered spandrels have square, residential-looking window openings that have pronounced sills and windows in precast. Three modular bands of dark red brick accent the second and third floor windows and help to reduce the scale of the structure. The fourth level returns to the block limestone look and a heavy cornice disguises the fifth parking level.
At the corners of the building, adjacent to the stair towers, ribbed formliner was used on the precast spandrels to create a contemporary, fluid look that contrasts and complements the traditional brick elements. Strategically placed sconces uplight the precast panel edges to add to an attractive and safe architectural nighttime image.