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Once two buildings " now one

U. Earl Dunn

When Reno architect Ken Bartlett received a request in October 2003 to draw up plans that would double the size of the Northern Nevada Bank building at South Virginia and Moana, he thought it might be complicated.

First, the existing 4,800-square-foot building was something out of the 1960s, devoid of detail and imagination.

Choosing his words carefully, Bartlett described the structure as “modernist”with sleek lines and tall columns that were rounded at the top and bottom.

The bank’s senior vice president and chief financial officer,Margaret Tarpey,was more blunt: “It looked like a funeral home, like a mausoleum,” she says.”It was unimaginative, both inside and out.”

Another concern for Bartlett was that he was hearing a lot of voices about the new addition, its function, and what it should look like.

“My concerns were very short-lived,” he says.”Rob Hemsath (the bank’s president) understood the tight time frame and, between him and Miles Brothers Construction,we all agreed quickly on what needed to be done.”

The biggest challenge, says Bartlett,was to connect the new addition to the old structure and give the appearance that the building had all been built at one time.

It also needed to be completed in just over six months by July 2004.

“Rob (Hemsath) made decisions very fast,” he says.”And Cary Richardson, the construction senior project supervisor, and Brian Toms, the construction supervisor, all made it come together.”

The remodeled structure now totals 10,400 square feet.

To the north of the original structure was a customer and employee parking area that rested below the level of the bank.

That’s where the building addition would go.

Bartlett smoothed the slope and built a two-story structure so the two structures appeared to have been created as one.

Originally, the plan called for the addition to house the bank’s data center, then situated off-site.

It would go on the first floor.

Bartlett drew sketches and colored them, pulling in ideas from Hemsath and the contractors.

Permits were obtained and framing began.

That’s when Hemsath realized the bank’s business was expanding so rapidly that there was a greater need for executive and staff offices than for the computer center.

That required some rapid redesigning.”We turned it around on a dime,” says Bartlett.”We moved some rooms around on the first floor of the existing structure, moved bathrooms and made them bigger.

The second floor has executive offices, a conference room, break room and staff offices.” As with most remodels, a business must also remain open during construction.

“The bank needed to serve its customers and we had to keep the area clear and safe.

That’s why we painted on weekends and did many tasks during some very weird hours,” says Bartlett.

While dealing with the new construction, Bartlett knew he still must cope with the exterior columns whose design shouted “boring!” in today’s world of architecture.

“The existing face was stucco and wood studs and the columns were concrete and steel,” he says.”The cost to carry out the exterior column look in concrete and steel would have been prohibitive.”

Bartlett chose to do the new columns in stucco and wood.He then used a rock base around the base of the columns to eliminate the radius look, and then visually connected the columns together with a blue metal grid.

Another significant change occurred with access to the bank at the northeast corner of Virginia Street and Moana.

By bringing what had been two separate parking areas together just north of the bank structure, Bartlett was also able to create a new access and exit path flowing off of South Virginia Street.

This eliminated the old corner access altogether.

Customers of the bank also find a significant change inside the bank.

“Margaret Tarpey played a big role in helping us come up with a brighter,more colorful design for the interior,” says Bartlett.”She commissioned some artwork for the conference room and had some very good ideas on the color scheme for the bank’s interior.”

Tarpey deflects some of the praise, but does acknowledge she is pleased with the new color scheme.

“We didn’t use traditional colors,” she says.

“You go into a lot of banks and you find cherry wood and mahogany which, in the past, have been synonymous with stability, security and confidence.We wanted to brighten our bank up.”

The boldest colors dark green, hues of brown and beige appear in the new addition, although elements of the powder-coated blue grids from the exterior can also be found inside.

Tarpey admits not all the employees like the new color scheme.”With some of the men, it takes awhile for them to get used to it,” she says.”But we had a lot of very favorable comments when we held our open house last year.