From a Warehouse Shell to an Automotive Well

RACO, Inc., headquartered in Stockbridge, Georgia, was hit in its infancy by the current recession, but one would never know it by looking at the company’s numbers. The general contracting firm opened for business in 2004, and it was already posting $5 million in annual sales revenue by 2011. Its five-person team now completes an average of 45 build-out and ground-up projects every year, including, recently, a $2 million gut renovation of an existing warehouse on the BMW manufacturing campus in Greer, South Carolina. RACO vice president D. C. Scheib talked to American Builders Quarterly about how the firm turned the empty storage space into a high-volume processing depot.

The warehouse on the BMW campus in Greer, SC, was vacant for at least five to six years before RACO stepped in.
The firm built a repair garage into the space, and it also made room for a new parking lot.

Stockbridge, Georgia, was home to a processing station managed by Manheim Auto Auctions. Manheim has had a long-standing contract with BMW and used this Stockbridge location to process company cars driven by BMW employees. Every year, the employees would exchange their old cars for new ones in Greer, and Manheim brought the cars to Stockbridge to clean them, detail them, and process them for auction, where they would be sold on the market as certified used cars. We had a good relationship with Manheim’s local GM, so when we heard that Manheim was moving their processing facility, we were able to get in on the ground floor.

To make processing more efficient, Manheim wanted to relocate the facility to the BMW plant in South Carolina. Based on RACO’s relationship with Manheim, we were able to go through the whole design-build process with them on this project. We were brought in on the front end to do the design and budgeting for the project. The first challenge was looking at how to work within the BMW property, which is like a city in itself. It has its own fire station, security, and building standards.

There was a warehouse off the beaten path of the BMW campus. It might have been there when they bought the property in 1994, or they built it and hadn’t used it much. By the time we started work on it at the end of 2010, it had been abandoned for five or six years. It was mostly stocked with spare parts like tires, rims, and pallets. There was also an office connected to this warehouse. We not only had to get approvals from Manheim and BMW for work but also [from] the city of Greer and the county of Spartanburg.

“Making sure the building fit the context [of the BMW campus] was an important part of the design process.”

d. c. scheib, vice president

We cleaned out the warehouse, gutted the office, and started renovation. It’s [meant to be] a processing area for old employee cars, so we put a garage in the warehouse where employees could drop off their old cars and the car could be processed for resale. There is a drive-through car wash in the facility [and] new parking lots for purchase, delivery, and loading and unloading of the cars on rigs.

We also included a truck turn-around area, with secured entry, for the rigs coming in and out. The whole area is walled with guardrails, a fence, and barriers to keep the cars secure. The office, which houses both Manheim and BMW entities, handles all of the paperwork.

Making sure the building fit the context was an important part of the design process. We worked with BMW on the selections of everything from wall base to furniture to make sure it matched the silver-gray campus aesthetic. We also made some major upgrades: a new HVAC system, roof patches, new parking lots, landscaping, and the conversion of the old septic system to mainline plumbing. This was especially important for the car wash, which needed a reclaim tank and a sewage system to correspond to EPA standards.

This was an important project for RACO because it allowed us to form new relationships. Since the BMW project, we’ve worked with Manheim on another dozen or so projects along the East Coast—Florida, South Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, and others. At RACO, we take a lot of pride in our ability to self-perform a lot of our work. We have divisions for drywall, cabinetry, and other services, so we’re able to do things more cost-effectively. We also do a lot of design-build jobs because we enjoy working on projects from start to finish. ABQ