Approximately 350,000 cu. yds. of dirt was moved on the project.
(Photo courtesy of Hills Brothers Inc.)
Despite record rainfall, the start of the pandemic and supply chain shortages, construction crews in Baldwin County, Ala., are close to completing a new regional headquarters and distribution center for grocery retailer ALDI. The 564,000-sq.-ft. facility will become the company's sixth distribution center in the southern United States.
"And the regional headquarters facility for ALDI will allow them to open up a retail store footprint from Tallahassee, Fla., to Baton Rouge, La., and everywhere in between that they could not previously serve," said Lee Lawson, president and CEO of the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance. "That's in addition to a $100 million investment and an approximately $10 million annual payroll.
"It's the longest project I've ever worked on in my career — more than three years from start to finish. It took a lot of patience and persistence on behalf of Mayor Richard Teel with the city of Loxley and the Baldwin County Commission. This investment was a huge win and having a $100 million facility in your community shows other investors and companies that a world-class company like ALDI believes in you, and your community, and is the best place for them to locate."
ALDI currently operates 30 stores across the state. With the distribution center in place, ALDI plans to open approximately three dozen new Gulf Coast-area stores by the end of this year. Lawson said ALDI's presence in Baldwin County will have a sizable economic impact.
"There will be 200 jobs created. Of that, 30-plus percent will be in management or higher roles. There's also engagement in the community, supporting non-profits and employees who have relocated to our area being involved in local activities."
Lawson noted that reaction from local residents has been positive.
"It isn't often in economic development that you get a large investment and job creation project that has a retail implication on your community. With this location, ALDI also started construction on three retail stores in our community as well. One of them is open now and two more are under construction, so the excitement has been tremendous.
"As one of the fastest growing communities in the country, we are where the workforce wants to live, work and play, and, at the end of the day, companies like ALDI need to know they can count on this area to be able to attract and retain talent in it. That, among a host of other benefits, is what's driving one of the great economic development stories in the U.S. for Baldwin County right now."
He added, "The progress has been great to watch, and AM King, the contractor for ALDI, has done a phenomenal job sourcing as much content as possible, locally and within the region, which was a huge priority of ours. Tremendous site work was done to prepare for vertical construction, and they are now in the final phases of the project, which is great to see."
Hill Brothers partnered with Ammons & Blackmon Construction of Spanish Fort, Ala., for the ALDI project. Hill Brothers performed clearing, grading, erosion control, storm drainage, utilities, landscape and irrigation, while Ammons was responsible for sidewalks, curb and gutter and asphalt paving. Clearing began the first week in December 2020.
According to Hill Brothers Inc. General Manager Jamie Montgomery, maintaining safe and usable work areas during construction was one of the most time-consuming challenges of the project.
"We struggled to keep the roads and work areas free of water and passable as the project progressed, as we had regular and excessive rainfall events that kept the site saturated and hard to get around. We spent a lot of time just keeping the building crews' areas where they could keep working and push the project forward, despite the rains we were getting."
The property was an existing field, with wetlands bordering the project to the east. Site work involved striping topsoil and moving 350,000 cu. yds. of material on site. Approximately 90,000 cu. yds. went to a stockpile for later use and 260,000 cu. yds. moved and reinstalled under structural areas. Striping has been completed, along with the irrigation system and landscaping.
The Loxley distribution center will feature several sustainable building elements, such as solar panels, LED lighting and an environmentally friendly refrigeration system. Montgomery said completing the building pad was a major milestone.
"Also, final grading of the parking lots and having them stoned was a relief, as this took a huge burden off the erosion control efforts, having the site sealed and stabilized.
"Because of the record rainfall, we had a hard time drying the subgrade to the point it would hold up construction traffic. We ended up having to cut out 18 inches of the entire parking lot and roads and replace them with sandy borrow material to be able to bridge the heavy clays on site."
Montgomery said erosion control and stormwater management was a huge challenge, due to the wet conditions.
"There were several meetings on site during the project to brainstorm ideas of how to manage the incredible amount of water that had to be controlled and captured on the site."
Most of the excavation work was performed with tractors and pans. Approximately 350,000 cu. yds. of dirt was moved on the project.
"During construction we've utilized primarily Caterpillar and John Deere equipment," said Montgomery. "Two Cat 336 excavators, a John Deere 300 excavator and a Hitachi 470 excavator were used for pipe installation, as well as a dozen smaller John Deere, Cat and Yanmar medium and mini-excavators. Cat D6, D5, D3 dozers and two John Deere 700 dozers were also needed. In addition, we had Volvo and John Deere off-road trucks on site."
The largest purchase of materials on site was 80,000 tons of base stone from Vulcan Materials, more than 80 concrete structures, more than 13,000 ft. of storm drainage pipe, 9,400 ft. of waterline and in excess of 4,000 ft. of sewer lines.
Montgomery said working on a project of this nature has been extremely fulfilling.
"Not only do we get the recognition of being able to perform large jobs, which propels the company to a different level, but every worker from laborer to owner gets the satisfaction of knowing they were part of such a large, successful effort. Although this was Hill Brothers' largest project at just over $8 million for our part, the professionalism and workmanship shown by our workers rivals any larger company I have ever worked with.
"Charlie Hill, the owner of Hill Brothers, and Lee Rollin, Hill Brothers superintendent on the project, spent countless hours before daylight and after sunset planning and preparing for the next day's challenges. Not only did we finish the job within the owner's schedule, but we kept the schedule rolling for all the other trades on the job in the midst of record rainfall and supply chain challenges." CEG
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