When Mercedes-Benz USA’s new headquarters in Sandy Springs opens in March, it will be bathed in natural light.
“The only artificial light is these lights up there,” Stephen Swicegood, principal with the architectural/design firm Gensler and the architect who designed the building, said while standing in its atrium behind a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows that go up three stories.
Swicegood, Mercedes-Benz USA President and CEO Dietmar Exler and other company representatives led the media on a tour of the three-story, 200,000-square-foot structure Nov. 13. Exler said there are 1.4 acres of glass in the building, whose cost was not disclosed by the company.
The Stuttgart, Germany-based luxury automobile maker, which is moving its U.S. headquarters from Montvale, New Jersey, to Sandy Springs, already has a temporary office in Dunwoody while the new one is being built. Its zoning was approved by the Sandy Springs City Council in August 2015 and the project broke ground in May 2016. Employees will relocate there in May.
Most of the 76-acre Glenridge Hall property that was sold to Ashton Woods was for the development of its Aria mixed-use project. But 12 acres were then sold by Ashton Woods to Mercedes-Benz for its USA headquarters. The Mercedes HQ site is on the south side of Abernathy Road, which bisects the Glenridge Hall land.
Exler said the building was designed to be as open and airy as possible to foster collaboration between employees.
“We want we space versus me space,” he said.
The tour started outside the entrance and moved to the lobby, where the first Mercedes-Benz, built in 1886, will be displayed at the headquarters’ grand opening. It will also include a conference center, which will have an art exhibit with art made from Mercedes-Benz’s spare auto parts.
When the tour reached the atrium, Exler said it is one of the main areas of the headquarters.
“(It) is the focus of the whole building,” he said. “There’s a cafeteria over here, where 25 percent of all food will be locally sourced,” he said. “This space will double as the town hall area of the building for meetings. It’s one thing we’re really can’t do in our current building.”
One building feature not on the tour is its rooftop garden, which Exler said is his favorite part of the structure and will be a place employees can go for lunch breaks or meetings.
“We couldn’t show it to you today because it’s not ready yet and won’t be ready until April or May,” he said.
Exler said the company has had no problems in building its headquarters and has had a good working relationship with the city. He also said construction is on time and on budget.
Exler said the USA division will have about 1,000 employees in its new headquarters once it opens. There are about 550 employees at the temporary headquarters in Dunwoody, with about 200 are from the Montvale headquarters, Exler said. There are currently about 340 more employees who remained behind in Montvale, predominantly in its customer assistance center (and related support functions). Those jobs will move this summer. The remaining spots will allow the company to accommodate interns, contractors and temps and still have some room to grow.
Exler said the departments housed in the new building will include sales, marketing controlling, accounting, information technology and the customer assistance/call center. It will not include any manufacturing or research and development departments.
Exler said the reason the company moved from Montvale was because its building there had to be remodeled to accommodate its workforce, and that would take a year or two to complete and would require at least some of the employees to temporarily move out. So at that point Mercedes-Benz leaders decided to look at other cities to relocate its USA headquarters. It chose Atlanta for several reasons.
“Some of them were transportation, infrastructure and the airport, the closeness to our major markets in the South and our harbor in Brunswick that we use,” he said of the coastal Georgia facility it uses to deliver cars from cargo ships in Germany to trucks that drive them to dealerships. “(Other reasons are) cost of living here, as well as everything Atlanta has to offer in terms of education, great schools, great universities and colleges here in town, and it’s just a wonderful weather. A personal benefit for me is you can drive a convertible with the top down all year-round. All that together was the winning package, from our perspective.”
Exler said the Sandy Springs headquarters’ staff will be 10 to 15 years younger than the Montvale one, partly because there was little turnover with the Montvale employees.
“We can’t wait to get inside this building,” he said of next year’s opening.