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: Elizabeth, N.J.
Type of Precast: Structural precast
Size: 514,800 square feet, plus 28,518-square-foot office building
Images courtesy of Century 21 Construction Corp
New parking garage reinterprets growing city’s classical center
Despite an ongoing economic recession, The City of Elizabeth, New Jersey, continued to grow, and determined that additional structured parking was the best way to support its busy downtown. Designed to complement the city’s classical government center, the new Elizabethtown Plaza parking garage serves the courthouse, a county administration building, a new college building, and a business district that are all within walking distance.
The project team chose a precast parking structure from High Concrete Group LLC for design flexibility and speed of construction. "We needed to complement the classical architecture of the government center, which dates from the early 1900s," says John Rom, project architect for Desman Associates. "Precast concrete gave us the flexibility to progress the classical aesthetics and proportions into a modern, full-service parking garage."
Built on the site of a surface parking lot, the $25 million project includes an adjacent, all-precast, 28,000-square-foot office building. The three-story building is constructed with 10"-thick bearing walls and 10" hollowcore plank. The leasable space is intended for retail on the first floor and government or commercial offices on the second and third floors.
At more than 500 feet long, the 514,000-square-foot parking structure needed a human scale like that of its civic neighbors. The team placed a stair and elevator tower at each end, and a third stair tower in the center, to break up the eight-story facade. "Though it’s a large building, it’s not out of scale with its surroundings," says Rom. A cornice at the fourth level further contributes to the lower façade’s pedestrian-friendly, building-like look.
The precast concrete mixes include a light gray, almost white color in a medium sandblast for the majority of the parking structure. A second, darker gray with a light sandblast provides an accent on the sloping spandrels of the upper floor levels. Horizontal and vertical reveals provide a limestone block image.
Punched window openings in horizontal bands disguise the sloping floors; architectural window screens provide aesthetics and safety. For security, large tempered glass windows in the towers bring plenty of light to the bright stainless steel, glass-back elevator cabs and stairs. Tower walls are white precast concrete with a steel trowel-finish on the interior side to provide a bright and friendly appearance to visitors.
Based on 48’ bays, the parking structure has 12’-wide double tees on the lower floors that accommodate the punched window façade treatment. Higher, behind the sloping spandrels, economical 16’-wide double tees make up the driving surface. The 26"-stem double tees easily accommodate the structure’s 11’ floor-to-floor height. Induction lighting pendants suspended between the double tee legs provide a white light; during daytime hours the lights are lit only in the interior rows, and daylight is the main source of illumination.
Vehicles have two entrance and exit points and circulate through a double-threaded helix layout to reach the 1,500 available parking spaces. The garage has a two-way traffic flow with 9’-wide parking stalls. A nesting area above the third floor accommodates the monthly pass customers who occupy levels above the third floor. 600 of the spaces serve government workers, 600 serve students of nearby Union County College, and 300 spaces are available for transient visitors on the lower two levels. From a pedestrian circulation standpoint, the workers and students enter and exit through opposite ends of the garage.
Outside, a small plaza at the grade level of the north end of the building features a tree-lined greenscape that adds to the walkability toward the college. Visible from West Jersey Street, the plaza includes a seating area for the public. The parking garage is set up with charging stations to accommodate up to 10 electric vehicles.