Dazzling on the outside. Functional on the inside. They are warehouse distribution centers - affectionately called "shoe boxes" - but there's nothing boxy about them. The Rancho Cucamonga Distribution Center III with its curved aqua reflective glass at its corner entries and its subtle recession of concrete at the sides projects an image of a corporate headquarters.

The $15 million project, located in the heart of Rancho Cucamonga's industrial district, draped by the San Bernardino mountains, consists of over 1 million square feet designed by GAA Architects of Irvine and developed by the Trammell Crow Company. The project features one smaller building (52,700 square feet) and three larger buildings ranging in size from 215,300 square feet to 422,000 square feet. The largest building is a cross-dock facility accommodating trucks that will come in on one side to unload their cargo that will then pass through the building to be loaded for distribution on the opposite side. The other two large buildings feature a multitude of front loading truck doors. (There are 170 truck doors in the three larger buildings.) The smaller building was designed for manufacturing and/or distribution.

According to Eric Aubort, GAA's Project Manager, "The strategy for the design of the Rancho Cucamonga Distribution Center III was to maximize its flexibility as an industrial park. The project has a healthy mix of product size and type to accommodate very large users as well as multi-tenant users. This allows for maximum flexibility in relation to varying market conditions."

High Standards

Architectural standards are extremely high in Rancho Cucamonga. The city no longer accepts ordinary "shoe boxes." GAA melded the architectural with the functional in order to achieve design approval. Ninety nine percent of the space is working area and only one percent - the corners - are used to create the curved artistic element.

"We did not have the luxury of time on this project," said Aubort. "We had only five months to do the design and to get entitlements from the city as well as the design approval. The city is notoriously stringent because of its high standards and it was just short of amazing that GAA and Trammell Crow accomplished what they did in less than half a year. I guess we understood what the 'hot buttons' were. We were able to fulfill Rancho Cucamonga's aesthetic requirements by creating a project with great curb appeal that enhanced the community."

Easy to Lease

According to Chris Atkinson, Trammell Crow's Senior Vice President, the two buildings slated for completion in November are already 50 percent pre-leased. The other two buildings are scheduled for completion by mid-February. The project is being constructed by EPI General Contractors of Van Nuys. Atkinson expects the remainder of the property to be leased very quickly. "Rancho Cucamonga Distribution Center III is one of the most aesthetically pleasing properties in the area and certainly the most functional," he said.

Flexibility was the watchword of GAA's design for the four buildings. "The perfect scenario would be for one user to lease one building. But when you have a building that covers 10 acres, chances are the space will be divided among a variety of users," said Atkinson.

Clear Height

The larger buildings feature 30 foot clear height. In the 1950s and 1960s -- tilt-up construction's infancy period -- construction technology, crane capacity and the limitations of forklifts all conspired to limit warehouse clear heights to below 20 feet. The 1970s brought in tilt-up technology, and 24 foot clear became the standard. Such heights typically allowed for four levels of racks. In the 1980s, construction technology moved further ahead, and rooflines higher.

In the 1990s, 30 feet to 32 feet clear became the standard on large distribution buildings, with some facilities reaching even higher. Besides optimum clear height, another state-of-the-art feature on the buildings is the high density / high flow sprinkler system. One more attractive feature (important to the city) is the extensive trailer storage space.

Sophisticated Team

"This project has gone phenomenally well but not by accident," according to Gilbert Aja, President of GAA Architects "It is the result of an extremely sophisticated development team. Trammell Crow knows warehouses and they know distribution centers. They answered the question, 'What kind of product does the market want?' We're working with a savvy client who knows exactly where they're going and has a pulse on what is required in the market place for a highly successful project."

Aja also singled out the work of EPI General Contractors. "EPI has years of experience building millions of square feet of warehouse distribution buildings. Therefore, there were no change orders, no errors and no additional costs -- we've ended up with a project that cost exactly what we said it would." GAA Architects has worked with Trammell Crow on a number of warehouse distribution projects, which Aja calls "one of our specialties." Currently, GAA is also working on similar, even larger, projects in Irwindale and Chino.

Background on Trammell Crow

Founded in 1948, Trammell Crow Company is one of the largest diversified commercial real estate services companies in the United States. Their team for this project included Mark Ossola, Senior Vice President; Brian Garcia, Vice President; Jim Tortorice, Senior Financial Analyst; Henry Johnson, Principal, and Chris Atkinson, Senior Vice President.

GAA Background

Besides working closely with Trammell Crow, GAA maintains long term professional relationships with such prominent developers as Legacy Partners, Lennar Partners, Koll Development Company, Catellus Development Corporation, Lowe Enterprises Commercial Group and The Muller Company. Gilbert Aja is a graduate of the University of Southern California's School of Architecture. Eric Aubort has a Bachelor of Architecture degree from New Jersey Institute of Technology. Lon Stephenson is GAA's Director of Production and holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from California Polytechnic State University.

"We at GAA Architects strive to create a product that will enhance the lives of people who work in the facilities we design," said Aja. "People who occupy our buildings spend more time in these complexes than they do their own homes. It is a tremendous responsibility to make that time pleasant and conducive to work."