-Photos by Terry Miller
By Joe Taglieri
After a nearly 14-year effort, Arcadia’s only auto dealership and the city’s largest generator of sales tax revenue is in the final stage of its quest to construct a larger, more elaborate showroom.
Rusnak Mercedes-Benz – in town since 2000 and currently located at 55 W. Huntington Drive near Santa Anita Race Track and the Civic Center – broke ground in December to begin construction of a 22,500-square-foot, two-story structure just around the corner from its longstanding base of operations. The new location is destined for the 100 block of Santa Anita Avenue and will also include 78,000 square feet for vehicle service and repairs, storage and parking.
In line with Mercedes’ arguable status as the flagship of luxury car brands, the plan for Rusnak’s new showroom is indeed nothing short of luxurious. The palatial yet at the same time conservative design features panoramic glass walls with sleek light-blue columns and white stone surfacing on the roof, creating a front facade reminiscent of somewhere between an ancient Roman temple and ultra-modern sports arena.
Inside, the forthcoming showroom will boast a massive sales floor to accommodate upwards of 30 brand new vehicles. Centrally placed interior columns will form an inner circle likely to showcase Rusnak’s top models.
An upper level platform that wraps around a significant portion of the building’s perimeter will host a number of additional vehicles for customers to browse and offer a birds-eye view of autos on the ground level in addition to the neighboring cityscape and the San Gabriel Mountains off in the distance.
HOK, a Culver City architectural firm, designed the project. San Marcos-based Kunzik & Sara Construction Inc. is the builder.
Reportedly a $10 million development, Rusnak Auto Group CEO Victoria Rusnak put the total price tag for the project at more than $25 million.
“The project is underway, and we’re thrilled about that,” Rusnak said in a phone interview. “We’re just coming off a fantastic 2014 operationally and … are very focused on delivering the best facility and customer service to our loyal and newer clients.”
The dealership’s annual sales total for 2014 was $170.5 million, up more than $18 million from 2013, according to CEO Rusnak.
City Manager Dominic Lazzaretto also shared his exuberance for the imminent dealership expansion.
“The City is very excited that the Rusnak project is underway,” he said via email. “It is a significant investment by an elite retailer in a fantastic location. Once complete, the facility will provide an interesting and modern facade to the heart of our downtown.”
Since 2001, company founder Paul Rusnak had sought to expand his business into a larger facility. At the end of the decade as the city and Rusnak neared an agreement to develop a two-acre site assembled from several parcels on Santa Anita Avenue and adjacent side streets, the state government cancelled redevelopment funding.
California law required the city to reorganize its real estate management agency, develop a long-range development plan and freeze all projects that didn’t have a finalized contract, which delayed the Rusnak project.
“The Rusnak dealership is under corporate pressure to expand, and it is now our understanding that the franchise is at significant risk of being closed because it cannot meet expansion demands,” Arcadia Development Services Director Jason Krukeberg wrote in a January 2013 letter to the California Department of Finance. “This would be a significant blow to Arcadia. Rusnak is a model corporate citizen, is invested in the community, and is a successful job producer and sales tax generator.”
Rusnak Mercedes-Benz tops the list of businesses that contribute sales tax revenue to the city. According to a Development Services Department report prepared for the City Council in May 2013, the dealership must continue selling cars in Arcadia for 10 years and generate at least $800,000 in annual sales tax.
“In the end this dealership will benefit the community tremendously,” Victoria Rusnak said. “It not only generates a gigantic amount of sales tax dollars, which of course funds the police, fire department and schools, it also brings incremental business to the community in terms of shopping, restaurants and all of that. When you’re selling and servicing that many cars, you have a lot of clients coming in.”
Building permits were issued in December, and the development agreement requires that construction finish within 18 months from then.