Approximately 66,000 vehicles per day currently travel I-55 daily between Old Agency and Steed Road near a $230-million shopping center under construction in Ridgeland, MS.
That number is expected to increase to 81,000 when the 75-acre open-air lifestyle center, Renaissance at Colony Park, opens in fall 2007.
Some road projects are being considered by the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) to alleviate traffic in the area.
“MDOT is considering a HELP project [Highway Enhancement through Local Partnerships] on I-55 from the Old Agency Interchange in Ridgeland to the Highway 463 Interchange in Madison,” said Ken Wallace, assistant district engineer of construction in MDOT’s District 5 office in Newton, MS.
The project will include a split-diamond interchange, add two lanes to the interstate in each direction (for a total of eight), widen Madison Avenue to five lanes and build the new McClellan Drive.
The $140-million job is expected to be ready for contract in 2008.
“MDOT will let to contract an interim project within this same area which will initially add lanes to the interstate only. Two lanes will be added southbound and one lane northbound. This project will hopefully alleviate traffic congestion on the interstate near Madison and Ridgeland until the HELP project can be let to contract. This interim project is scheduled for contact [in August] and will cost approximately $4.5 million,” Wallace said.
MDOT is exploring another interim project, which would build the west frontage road on I-55 between Old Agency Road and Steed Road.
“This project is being considered because of the very large Renaissance development in that same area, which is expected to generate lots of traffic on Steed Road, Old Agency and the Old Agency Interchange as well as Highland Colony Parkway,” he said.
While road contractors are preparing to bid on the MDOT jobs, Hoar Construction, which is doing site work for Renaissance at Colony Park as well as serving as construction manager, has been working since October.
Mattiace Properties Inc. of Jackson, MS, which has more than 20 years experience, has partnered with H.C. Bailey, a commercial real estate company, to build the center.
“The actual ongoing work involves rough grading and box culverts,” said Greg Cross, Hoar Construction project manager.
Cross said the project has “good soil,” but that “it’s just a little wet.”
Two major subcontractors are doing the current work. Eutaw Construction of Aberdeen, MS, is doing the box culverts. The rough grading is being done by Hemphill Construction of Florence, MS.
A contract to put in utilities hasn’t been awarded yet.
“We’re bidding it now,” Cross said.
Cross said his company has built 18 to 20 facilities like the Renaissance and many more strip malls similar to it along with approximately 65 million sq. ft. (6 million sq m) of retail space.
“Everything is on schedule. Building pads will be completed in August. Buildings will begin this fall,” added Cross.
Crews are expected to work some Saturdays, with some early morning hours and very little night work.
Approximately 500,000 cu. yds. (380,000 cu m) of fill dirt is being brought to the site.
Site prep will continue as building construction begins.
“There is a lot of coordination and rescheduling ongoing throughout the job due to this, but there is no other way to build these types of projects, unless the time frame is basically doubled. We do this on just about every project we do, though. We continually meet daily and schedule subs, contractors, tenants, etc. in order to achieve our goals,” Cross said.
He said the biggest challenge with the overall project is meeting budgets.
“The cost of construction has increased drastically over the past couple of years and especially since Hurricane Katrina and we are in the process of finalizing budgets,” added Cross.
The largest piece of heavy equipment on the project now is a Komatsu 400 track hoe. According to Cross, there also are 30 or more pieces of equipment, including dozers, tractors, loaders and water trucks.
The crew size is expected to fluctuate during the next 16 months.
“Right now, there are probably 35 to 40 or so workers working from 7 a.m. to 3:30 or 4 p.m. everyday. During the middle of the project, there will be as many as 250 people or more working on the job on a daily basis,” said Cross.
Andrew Mattiace, president of Mattiace Properties Inc. was inspired after visiting lifestyle centers around the country.
“We took the best features from numerous properties and incorporated them into one,” he said.
So far, the project has commitments from Parisian, Barnes and Noble, P.F. Chang’s Chinese Bistro, Allen Custom Color Center, a Hyatt Place hotel and White House/Black Market.
In addition to 60 retailers in 650,000 sq. ft., the development also will include 500,000 sq. ft. of commercial space.
Plans call for 10 restaurants, a stage for live music and synchronized water fountains moving to music. Mattiace said covered colonnades will allow visitors to move from one store to another in all types of weather.
Mattiace and Bailey are considering offering a motorized tram to move shoppers around the center. CEG