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Bridge Street Town Centre to Employ Hundreds

Tue January 06, 2015 - Southeast Edition
Cindy Riley

Construction is complete in Huntsville, Ala., and crews put the finishing touches on the expansion of a popular, upscale shopping center.

Van Geroux, Bayer Properties marketing director, Bridge Street Town Centre said, “It’s exciting to see the vision of the center’s expansion become a reality in such a short period of time.”

A total of 220,000 sq. ft. (20,438 sq m) of retail space has been added to the mall, including a more than 170,000 sq. ft. (15,793 sq m), two-story flagship Belk department store, which will anchor the new development phase. Belk’s newest store will feature an expanded assortment of top designer, national and exclusive brands, which officials hope will be a regional draw and increase tourism sales for Bridge Street Town Centre.

Along with construction of the $20 million Belk project at Bridge Street, crews worked on a multi-level parking garage on the north side of the department store. The new spaces being created will increase parking capacity to more than 5,500 parking spaces. At one point during construction, Bridge Street began offering free pedicab rides and valet parking to ease walking and parking issues for customers.

“In addition to welcoming Belk to the shopping center, we’ll be adding two new parking areas for over 1,000 vehicles and four new retail buildings totaling 50,000 square feet,” Geroux said. “The development has been the catalyst to attract additional destination and first-to-market retailers that add uniqueness to the center. The 13.5-acre Bridge Street Town Centre expansion will solidify our market position as the premier shopping, dining and entertainment destination in north Alabama.”

The man-made lake, which was partially drained last fall so a new retaining wall could be built, has been refilled to its normal water depth. As part of the development project, the lake has been enhanced with the addition of a waterfall and water jets, to provide a focal point for guests traveling between the expansion area and the existing shopping center. Another amenity incorporated into the Phase III design is a large circular courtyard area that will be activated seasonally with events, musical performances, exhibits and décor treatments.

James Slay, project engineer of general contractor Hoar Construction said, “The biggest accomplishment for our team when it comes to the main task would be erecting the parking deck in 45 days. Right now, we are mainly working on getting all the respective trades finished on their work in the deck. This includes MEP, EIFs, stud walls, etc.”

One of the key steps during the construction process involved raising the site elevation so that crews could begin work on the infrastructure. A major challenge outside of construction came from working in the area near the functioning mall.

“At all times, we have to be mindful of the mall management and customers we might be affecting,” Slay said. “Whether it means keeping the roads clean or making sure the public has safe access to getting where they want to go, we have that in mind. Not only do we want our men to work safely on site, but we want all those around us to be safe, as well.

“At the beginning of the project there were some coordination issues between Hutton and us,” said Slay, “but as our two teams got to know each other, we have succeeded on working hand in hand.

With the expansion, space became an issue.

“The land that we are currently working on top of used to be a lake,” said Slay. “Around a million cubic yards of dirt have been moved on this project. Huge amounts were moved in order to fill in the lake bed so that work could begin.”

A wide variety of heavy machinery has been used on the project.

“We have had several pieces of equipment, including a Case skid steer, a Case back hoe, a JLG scissor lift, a Cat D6 bulldozer and a Link-Belt lattice crawler, which had a maximum lift capacity of 200 tons,” Slay said. “Also, 10-ton boom lifts, a Cat earth mover, a Cat front-end loader, a Case sheep’s foot roller, a Case smoother barrel roller and Whiteman rider trowel machines were required.”

Most of the equipment was used for grading and moving earth, according to Slay. Boom lifts were needed for lifting and moving materials around the site to buildings where needed.

“The scissor lifts were mainly used inside the buildings when erecting the stud walls,” Slay said. “We had to tear up an asphalt parking lot to place our precast deck, which was accomplished with several dump trucks and backhoes.

“The concrete we have poured is around 350,000 square feet, which includes the parking deck and the buildings. We erected the buildings out of steel. Our coordination in the areas of utilities, erosion control, storm sewer and other construction concerns caused the implementation of the plan to go smoothly, and we had no problems with issues of this nature.”

According to Slay, it was important that the team reach its goal in erecting the deck in 45 days.

“This was not easy, especially considering the fact that it is made up of more than 600 pieces,” said Slay. “To meet this date, we had to sit at least 15 pieces of precast a day. Fifteen is not a hard number to hit, but when rain delays and other unforeseen issues come up, the number has to increase. By the last week of work our erection crews were placing in excess of 20 pieces a day. Also, keep in mind that some of these pieces weighed as much as 56,000 pounds, so it was very delicate work. I liken it to putting a giant puzzle together. Each piece came in a specific order that it had to be erected in.”

Slay was quick to point out that the difficult task was well worth the effort.

“I have shopped here several times myself,” said Slay. “Every time I have come though, parking has been an issue. Bridge Street is always overflowing with customers. With this parking deck, in which about 1,000 parking spots are being added, we are hoping to alleviate some of this problem.”

Tennessee-based general contractor Hutton Construction Inc. was involved the construction of Belk.

“We still need to get final sign off on the two elevators and two escalators, which have to be inspected by the state, and the city of Huntsville will also require another Certificate of Occupancy walk through,” said Hunter Augustino, project manager of Hutton Construction.

“Mechanical, electrical and gas final inspections are now complete. We are installing the composite metal panels on the exterior of the building and will be hanging sunshades at the south and east entrances. Landscaping also is being installed right now. The building is 95 percent complete, with final cleaning going on inside.”

Coordination with other contractors was key, according to Augustino.

“Normally, we would have the entire site, but since we only had the building, we had to coordinate with Hoar in making sure they were going to maintain their schedule as we worked around one another. Once the steel came in, we teamed with a local steel erector, Longarc Corporation, in working out the logistics on moving the crane as little as possible to erect the building. We had to build a stone road around the building to erect the steel, as well as leave a section of the slab on grade unpoured until the steel erection was complete.

“This is a new prototype store for Belk, so there were a few architectural design changes throughout the job,” said Augustino. “The glass mosaic tile on the south elevation of the store was delivered all the way from China. Building 175,000 square feet in ten months is a difficult task, but we were able to sign up very good sub-contractors to help keep up the pace and schedule.

“When we showed up last October, Hoar had already built the building pad and had a stone laydown area ready for us. Hoar had to re-build a side of the pond, which took quite a bit of time.”

Crews used a variety of materials to build the new department store.

“There’s only one row of CMU block on this job,” Augustino said. “This structure is made of steel and heavy gauge studs. The exterior façade is made of EIFS, metal panels, Coronado stone and curtain wall systems.

The new Belk is without the traditional retail design. The store has a white-and-gray toned exterior, special wall treatments and design elements to give the building a modern look. As they enter into the final stage of their work, crews are making certain they maintain the high standards set.

“We worked long hours and many weekends to make this job finish up on time,” Augustino said. “Carpet and tile has to be precise with retail construction, because of all the fixtures that go into a store this size. Michael Kors, Chanel, Jo Malone, etc. are all expecting a certain amount of square footage in this store, and it’s up to us and the layout to make sure they get just that. There’s not a single tile in the main aisles that is cut smaller than nine inches.”

Unpredictable winter weather, including unexpected snow and ice, was a concern during construction, but did not have a major impact.

“We did have to pour some concrete in the winter and had to use cold weather protection in order to make it happen, but it all worked out,” said Augustino.

Bayer Properties is managing Bridge Street Town Centre. Developed by O&S Holdings and designed by TSArchitects of Los Angeles, Bridge Street Town Centre is a 100-acre mixed-use development. It opened on the edge of Cummings Research Park in November 2007, with a small number of retailers; the attraction now features a six-story office tower, more than 70 shops and restaurants, a 14-screen Monaco Pictures and a 210-room hotel.

The new Belk, being built where the western portion of the lake once was located, was formerly located at Huntsville’s Madison Square Mall. The Huntsville City Council approved a $4 million incentives package that would help Bridge Street’s owners secure Belk, along with additional square feet of retail space and a chain restaurant. Founded in 1888, North Carolina-based Belk, Inc. is the nation’s largest family-owned and operated department store company, with more than 300 Belk stores located in 16 Southern states.

Jan Clevenger, chair of the Belk Western Division based in Birmingham, Ala., said, “We’re especially excited to be part of Bridge Street Town Centre, which is one of the premier shopping and entertainment destinations in this market.”

At the new Bridge Street location, Belk will reportedly employ approximately 200 workers.

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