Craftsmanship meets construction in California

 —  Article by Alwynne Gwilt

1700 Main Street, Walnut Creek, California

It’s one of those places with such a unique exterior that you have no idea what to expect when you go inside.”

For many visitors to the city of Walnut Creek in California, the stone clad façade of 1700 North Main immediately brings to mind medieval castles. But  Jeff Badstubner, Senior Vice President, Retail Market Lead at JLL in San Francisco, knows that behind the archaic looking facade sits a modern real estate office that revels in its unique setting

Originally built in the 1970s, the former drive-in bank had a facelift in 2006 that took a rather fanciful approach to architecture. Expanded to include a second storey and double the size of the ground floor, it now features meandering brick lines, numerous archways, 12-foot doorways, vaulted ceilings and a large turret with peaked roof. It’s certainly got a very different look and feel to the car dealerships on either side of it.

Initially designed by Holey Associates in San Francisco, it was the construction manager who took things to the next step.

“I was working in downtown Walnut Creek and I was introduced to Primo Facchini, who wasn’t just a typical construction manager – he would find salvaged goods and the architect would have to find ways to incorporate it,” explains Badstubner.

Thousands of bricks, massive wooden beams and even the sculpture on the pavement at the front were all picked up from scrap yards and demolition sites to make the renovation of the 7,000 square foot building unique.

“Watching the construction process was really fascinating – it was about a true craftsman making things up as he went along and finding ways to make it fit in. You sometimes see this approach in residential buildings but very rarely do you see it in commercial projects,” he adds.

A local talking point

Since the update, it has been occupied by a real estate firm which, Badstubner says, benefits from the quirkiness.

“It really engages customers and friends of mine who work there say that the first two or three minutes of any conversation with someone new is based around their fascination with the building,” he says.

While the current occupants seem perfectly happy being in it, Badstubner is already envisioning what it could be in the future.

“It’s the type of building that will have a wonderful second life. With an interior that dramatic, and the corner building that is completely open for 20 feet from floor to ceiling, you could imagine it being perfect for a restaurant. It would make for a really special dining experience,” he comments.

And in a country where it is far more common to tear down buildings and start again, the approach to upgrading this building through the recycling of materials, is not only rare but a great example to future builders who want to be more eco-friendly.

“There’s always an opportunity to breathe new life into an existing building, to rehabilitate it. I think what 1700 North Main has done is inspire people to think about the idea that a building doesn’t need to be scrapped and started over, which is very valuable,” he concludes

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