Arlo Decatur

From its inception, Arlo sought to take on an extremely challenging site, and deliver a unique asset to a community already replete in character and uncommon appeal. Decatur is a sparkling town of charming little shops, high caliber eateries, and an almost unparalleled ability to hang on to, and reinvigorate, important urban architectural relics. Arlo couldn’t feel like contrived modernist or half-baked historicism. It needed a thoughtful solution that could solve the requisite program on site and act as an bridge between a rich past and a bright and forward thinking future.

Design Challenge

Foremost the design was challenged by the constraints and difficulties of the site. A truly triangular cut of land, the main facade faces nicely along E. Trinity Place while the Western side faces a row of older homes, many of which have been converted to various commercial endeavors, and the South lines a raised railroad track. Further technical issues manifest in the dramatic grade drop across the site, from South to North, along with a host of easements and urban design requirements. Of chief import was an existing Dairy Queen on private land leaving a last hold out to complete consolidation of the property. However, the design team took all challenges head on. Negotiations with Dairy Queen began, and they agreed to sell the land in exchange for a tailored space within the new building. The grade drop was largely exploited by retail and amenity uses for additional height. The design team worked closely with the city to prove up innovative methods to comply with design such as tri-partite arrangement, a watertable at the second floor, etc. The resulting building, we believe, deftly navigates all challenges to result in a very handsome and appropriate result.

Physical Context

Located a few blocks from Historic Downtown Decatur, Arlo is immediately surrounded by a bric-a-brac of urban forms ranging from one-story retail and historic homes to a proudly green mid-rise retirement center. The design team preemptively did an extensive physical survey of the area, documenting building forms, brick types and patterns, etc. as well as using social media to scratch at the vibrant local culture. In all, Arlo needed to relate to its surroundings with forms that made sense, using familiar materials, largely brick, and finding a way not to dominate the low-lying urbanity about it. Where the Northern corner of the project primarily fronts commercial and the adjacent midrise, it projects proudly like the prow of a ship, pointing to the downtown offering delightful views. In contrast, the Southern edge of the building tends to nestle itself into the hillside, reducing its scale where the surrounding context is most vulnerable to being overwhelmed.