Don Lee’s Subaru and Volkswagen dealership on Soscol Avenue has been surrounded by construction for months as new apartments, road improvements and parcels develop around it.
In the coming months, he’ll join the process.
His landlord, the Gasser Foundation, has filed an application with the city to build a new Subaru dealership at 473 Soscol Ave. That’s in addition to the new Chrysler dealership Lee already has planned for 459 Soscol Ave.
Lee said that Hanlee’s VW dealership will remain in the existing Subaru building at 495 Soscol Ave.
“We have thoroughly enjoyed being part of Napa,” said Lee, CEO of Hanlees Auto Group.
“We have been quite successful running the Subaru and VW dealerships all these years. I think it’s the right time to embark on this construction of two new franchises.”
The new Subaru dealership will include a 17,138-square-foot auto business with service facilities on a 2-acre site immediately north of the Gasser building at 433 Soscol Ave. and south of his current Subaru building at 495 Soscol Ave.
The one-story dealership will be accessed from a driveway on Soscol Avenue and the new extension of Saratoga Drive, said the application.
A total of 51 parking places for those Subaru vehicles will be located on the northern property line and along Soscol Avenue.
Lee said he’d like to start construction as soon as possible after the city approval process is completed.
“And certainly the weather has to cooperate,” he said.
Another challenge is that the local labor market, especially in construction, “is very, very tight,” he noted.
Even after permits are granted, the general contractor still needs time to mobilize a construction workforce, he noted.
According to the application, the architecture of the new building includes aluminum metal exterior cladding with a large glass forefront and slate covered tower.
Unlike the approved Chrysler dealership with winged architecture elements paying homage to the previous Chrysler dealership, the proposed Subaru dealership design is a more conventional rectangular box shape.
“We’re adhering to the Subaru brand standard,” said Lee.
Napa’s City Planning Commission has not always favored such simple shapes. In 2015 the city asked the Kastner family to redesign its proposed Napa Honda dealership to make it more “Napaesque.”
In fact, Hanlee’s approved Chrysler building also started as more of a box-like design, before receiving kudos from the city about the architectural wing additions and other changes.
At that hearing, Napa city Planning Commissioner Michael Murray said it was refreshing “not to see a cookie-cutter design of ‘This is what Dodge wants’ or ‘This is what Jeep wants.’”
When asked if he was concerned the city would consider the proposed Subaru building too “cookie cutter,” Lee said, “I hope not.”
“Obviously we would like to accommodate the wishes of the community,” but “it’s a very clean-cut, nice building. I hope that we can retain the current (Subaru) brand imaging.”
Lee defended the design, noting, “It’s very similar to the building we already have where Subaru is.” He pointed out that Nissan and Ford dealerships on Soscol Avenue both use the same aluminum paneling.
Design issues aside, construction at the new Chrysler building will begin first, said Lee. That could take eight to 12 months.
“I’m hoping that Subaru will not be too far behind,” he said.