Audi reaches new heights


TORONTO, ONT. – Ken Laird is talking about logistics as he scales the final set of concrete stairs and into the bright sunshine of the seventh floor.

The rooftop is the last stop on a tour of what is shaping up to be the next great addition to the Audi dealer network – the new home of Audi Midtown Toronto.

Though the site is still a work in progress with months of construction work ahead, Canadian AutoWorld was given an exclusive look at the dealership on an unseasonably chilly day in mid-April.

Topping out at 165,000 square feet, the seven-storey building looms large over the northeast corner of Highway 401/DVP junction in Toronto.

The structure is set to be complete by the end of May and an opening date of December has been targeted after a vicious winter caused some minor delays.

Audi MidTown Toronto will be owned and operated by Laird and the Humberview Group, which runs 18 franchises operating from 27 locations in Ontario.

Ken Laird runs one of the last Volkswagen/Audi dual branded dealerships around the corner and says this move has been a long time coming.

“I originally started discussions with former Audi Canada president Martin Sander back in 2009 about the store’s relocation,” he explains. “At the time, corporate was highlighting the expected growth of the brand and the need for increased service capacity and the growing network. We were already bursting at the seams and knew we needed to move.”

After looking at a few properties within the standard area permitted under NADAP rules, the team decided on a 2.5-acre parking lot in an area zoned for employment and not for automotive retail. Current neighbours include corporate offices for some of the largest companies in Canada.

Initial rezoning conversations with the city started in late 2010. He says that o0nce Toronto officials saw what it was and what the project could be, it began to move forward.

A collaborative design process followed between Audi head office, Cushman Wakefield, Audi Midtown, Teeple Architects and Eastern Construction to create something both impressive and impactful but also functional and sensible.

The Details
The north side of the main floor has an automated car wash, six mechanical bays and six detail bays. It is also the start of the circular ramp that winds up five storeys.

Customers will enter via a service entrance or the main vestibule. Service customers will drive into the 3,900-square foot, six-car service reception where a service consultant will meet them at their vehicle for processing; customers coming in the main doors will be greeted by a four-vehicle, curved mini-showroom.

The cars there will be outfitted with the latest in customized Audi accessories. Audi Midtown’s plan is to have a qualified consultant available to assist in the sale of accessories and Audi boutique items located on that level.

Beyond the cars, there will be customer lounges, a small café, washrooms and the customer service area, which will include the service manager’s office, service consultation areas, cashier and an alternate transportation kiosk.

Escalators will bring customers up into the second floor new-car showroom.

During the tour, he points out anyone at the base of the escalator will be attracted to the showroom above by the light cascading down the escalator from the west-facing wall of windows.

The main showroom can fit 22 vehicles and follows the semi-circle shape of the smaller showroom entrance below. A wall of two-storey windows lines the western wall and administrative offices sit in the third-floor mezzanine to the south. The north side of the high-ceiling showroom will hold the customer handover/new vehicle delivery area (also technically on the third floor).

As he makes his way up the impressive, twisting ramp, Laird insists it will be store policy for staff to do all the driving. Given how unforgiving concrete walls and hefty columns can be on luxury paint finishes, it is definitely a wise choice.

The fourth floor holds the bulk of fixed operations. A sprawling 23-bay service department, currently a bare-bones concrete room, will hold state-of- the-art lifts, benches and equipment.

The fifth floor is designated parking and was designed to accommodate stackers, should the need arise. It also marks the top of the circular ramp. A straight ramp climbs to additional parking on the sixth floor and again to the rooftop parking on the seventh.

There will be 147 parking spots at ground level and another 195 inside.

Perception and Performance
Inside a temporary trailer and out of the howling wind, Laird talks about the project with an almost unbelievable ease.

The 52-year-old insists it’s not as lavish and ponderous as it appears on first glance.

“People look at it and think it’s big and will be hard to operate. It’s actually the opposite. It’s what we needed. We just didn’t have the acreage so we had to go up”, he says.

He points out the dealership meets the showroom and fixed operations requirements within a contained functional area, complete with necessary administration offices. The rest is ramp, switchbacks and parking.

Of the 165,000 square foot total, parking and the ramp make up 88,000 square feet.

And it is not a one-off jewel, either. Artist’s renderings show it is essentially a vertical version of Audi’s Terminal corporate image program. Similar examples currently operate in Manhattan, Dubai and Sydney, Australia.

Costs of the project were not disclosed.

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