Ferrari. Mercedes-Benz. Maserati. Why a Schenectady architect is designing those car dealerships

The Schenectady firm has designed dozens of car dealerships over the past three decades.

Ferrari. Mercedes-Benz. Maserati. Why a Schenectady architect is designing those car dealerships

A wealthy developer in South Florida wanted to build a Tesla showroom with museum-quality condos on the upper floors to showcase luxury sports cars. He was referred by an architectural firm from Schenectady.

Michael Szemansco of Synthesis LLP won the design contest from Tomas Cabrezio of CFH Group for a five-story development worth $24 million.

Szemansco remarked that the project completed in Coral Gables, near Miami, five years ago was "a nice tipping-point for us."

This is one of many newly constructed or renovated auto showrooms that Synthesis has worked with over the last three decades. The portfolio has grown to about half the firm's gross revenue, which was $3.8 million in total billings for the year.

The architectural firm, which also designs K-12 schools, colleges and medical/health care buildings, has designed over 75 dealerships in the last eight years.

Projects include Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz Maserati, BMW Porsche Audi and Porsche.

Synthesis is one of the few architecture firms in the U.S. that has dominated the industry.

Szemansco stated that PRAXIS3 is the largest in Atlanta.

Szemansco's career began 34 years ago when he opened a Lexus dealer in Latham. It was one of his first contracts after co-founding the architectural firm in Schenectady.

New Country Motor Car Group constructed the Lexus showroom and hired Synthesis to grow the company in Albany and other states including Florida.

Synthesis' reputation within the automotive industry grew, and more referrals were received.

Dealerships often need to be redesigned when they are sold. This is because of the addition or replacement of vehicle brands, or to comply with current franchise standards.

Teresa Szemansco is the director of business development. She said, "In general, there must be renovations when there's a purchase/sell." She is married to Michael.

The construction pipeline did not slow down during the pandemic.

It actually boosted demand, as more people bought cars, and the supply chain stagnated. Prices also grew.

Michael Szemansco stated that dealers made record profits in the last three year. They were buying more dealerships. "We didn't notice any decrease in business during Covid."

The car manufacturers employ their own architects to design brand standards. Dealers are told that by hiring Synthesis, they can ensure the design meets local building codes and is tailored to the needs of the franchise. They also get oversight from the owner throughout the construction process.

Dealers can customize their showrooms to suit difficult locations. For example, a $6.5M Volkswagen and Honda dealership was built in Chicago at the same time by a dealer.

Synthesis has many opportunities to grow in the U.S. market.

Szemansco stated, "We're really not interested in being McDonald's architecture [firm], where we just pump out the Chrysler dealership 60 times per year." "We want them to come to us when they need a specialist architect for a special dealership."