Vertical horizon: Apex helps Charlottesville ‘grow up’

Apex Clean Energy will anchor the seven-story, 130,000-square-foot building slated for construction atop ACAC’s gravel parking lot a couple blocks off the Downtown Mall.
Courtesy william mcdonough + partners

Members of a local upscale fitness club will soon be looking for a place to park.

Apex Clean Energy—a company devoted to developing, constructing and operating wind and solar power facilities—announced plans March 1 to build a new headquarters on Garrett Street to house its 170 local employees who are currently spread out among three offices in town. The seven-story, 130,000-square-foot building will go right atop the downtown ACAC Fitness & Wellness Center’s gravel parking lot.

“We are happy to have Apex coming in as our neighbor,” says Meghan Hammond, senior marketing director of the fitness club. Staff is currently working on ways to “ease parking challenges” during construction.

Though Apex is knocking out the approximately 125-space gravel lot, a new parking garage with more than 380 spaces is included in its site plans, according to Hammond. It’ll also include—no surprise—multiple electric vehicle charging stations.

“Two hundred spaces in the garage will be open for ACAC clients during club hours,” says John Bahouth, senior vice president of administration at the renewable energy company that grew from fewer than 10 employees to 220 in nine years. And of those employees, one in five participates in the company’s incentive program that encourages them to cycle, walk or rideshare to work.

The new headquarters will be designed by architectural firm William McDonough + Partners, and developed by Riverbend Development, which plans to offer 10,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor. Apex offices will anchor the building and occupy 60,000 square feet.

Apex expects a mid-spring ground breaking with a 24-month buildout. Its goal is for the building to generate its own energy.

“Our exact energy plans are still in process, but we’ll for certain generate energy from solar panels,” says Bahouth. The building is designed with a green roof and its location maximizes natural lighting and fresh air circulation.

Green roofs are partially or fully covered with soil, plants and vegetation, and one has existed atop City Hall and the Charlottesville Police Department since 2008.

Jim Duncan, who works out of the nearby Nest Realty office, calls Apex’s planned addition a “huge net positive.”

He’s an advocate for vertical density downtown. And as a friend recently punned, Duncan says, “Charlottesville’s growing up.”

“There’s always likely to be some consternation about more traffic and more density and the parking that comes along with it, but ultimately I think it’s the evolution of the city’s center,” he adds. “Hopefully it will entice people to walk more and ride their bikes more often.”