Schmelz Countryside Volkswagen/SAAB
St. Paul, Minnesota


Schmelz Countryside Volkswagen wished to upgrade all physical aspects of their dealership, including dividing their brands into separate showrooms, replacing outdated signage and implementing long overdue maintenance projects (reroofing, landscaping, sales lot lighting, pavement replacement, storm water drainage, painting).


The primary motivation for the project was the transformation of the existing 'Used Car' building into a showroom for SAAB new car sales. Renovation focused on the customer experience, specifically the delivery of new cars, since receiving a new car is a proud experience for the buyer, one that the dealership wants to make memorable. In addition to the convenience of a conference area with coffee bar, the intensely lit spacious area allows the buyer to inspect and admire their vehicle at the moment it will look its very best.


To accomplish all goals of the project, it was necessary to obtain a conditional use permit and a signage variance.


  • Conditional Use Permit: Recent changes to the zoning law established a 350 foot setback for vehicle service facilities; the existing body shop was 75 feet from the property line. By illustrating planned landscape improvements and planned building appearances, a perpetual conditional use permit was obtained that allowed future buildings to conform to the existing 75 foot position.


  • Signage Variance: City zoning guidelines allowed only one pylon sign; a variance for 3 pylons was obtained by illustrating to the City Council that tastefully designed quality signage well integrated with the site and building is a higher standard for judgment than quantity alone.


A subsequent project in the VW building created a service intake area by separating the service writers from the service department.


Charles Levin Architects


Civil Engineer:

Miller Engineering


Structural Engineer:

Align Structural


Mechanical Engineer:

Jack Snow Engineering


Electrical Engineer:

Kaeding and Associates


Landscape Architect:

Close Landscape Architecture



Diversified Construction








C:  612.940.3758

W: 612.729.5333