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Retail Dinosaur Nearing Extinction in Hampton

Thu October 25, 2007 - Southeast Edition
Angela B. Hurni

The only part of the dinosaur left is the old J.C. Penney building. The typical shopping mall of yesteryear is becoming extinct and in its place, the mixed-use town center evolves.

The 750,000-sq.-ft. (70,000 sq m) Coliseum Mall in Hampton, Va., is being demolished by Wrecking Corporation of America to make room for Peninsula Town Center.

Wrecking Corp. has been on-site since March and plans to have the final building, the old J.C. Penney, demolished by November.

Two anchor stores at the mall, J.C. Penney and Burlington Coat Factory, are being razed as well as 100 specialty stores and restaurants. J.C. Penney has built a new store not too far from the old building, while other tenants had to be relocated. Macy’s will not be demolished and will remain open during demolition and construction. It also will be incorporated into the town center’s design.

Alexandria, Va.-based Wrecking Corp. is the demolition subcontractor for Hoar Construction, the general contractor from Alabama that is building the new town center.

In addition to demolition of the large mall structure, Wrecking Corp.’s contract consists of recycling the steel framing and on-site crushing of all concrete and masonry materials.

Wrecking Corp. brought in its fleet of excavators and loaders for the demolition and rented dump trucks to move the debris. According to Mike Hughes, superintendent of Wrecking Corp., three Hitachi 450 excavators with various attachments are being used during demolition. Attachments include a sheer to cut steel columns and trusses along with a grapple bucket for loading steel. All of the steel from the demolished buildings will be shipped off-site to be recycled.

The company also has a Hitachi 330 excavator on hand using a bucket and thumb attachment. The excavator also uses a concrete pulverizer attachment that Hughes and his crew call “Pac-Man.” Additionally, two Cat 973 loaders and a couple of Bobcat skid steers are being used.

In addition to demolition work, Wrecking Corp. has removed most of the underground utilities and performed some site work.

“We graded the site and rolled it to make it more weather resistant,” Hughes said.

For these tasks, the company rented dozers and rollers as needed. The area is extremely dry from lack of rainfall, so crews provide dust control by using fire hoses attached to city fire hydrants. The company reimburses the city for the water that is used.

It is not feasible for the entire mall to be demolished at one time, so Wrecking Corp. had to coordinate work with existing tenants like Macy’s and other specialty stores. Since Macy’s is staying put and other stores were open for a while during demolition, workers had to create a separation to protect the stores from ongoing work. The company also had to bring in smaller equipment for demolition of structures located right next to stores still open for business.

“We had to be more selective about the equipment used near the stores so to not damage any of the open stores,” Hughes said.

Some demolition near the open stores had to be performed by hand using tools like sledgehammers. Hughes described the work as “tedious.”

Hoar, the general contractor, provided assistance by covering up store entrances inside the mall prior to Wrecking Corp’s demolition. Temporary walls were built to protect the anchor stores’ glass entrances from within the mall. The walls were also meant to protect the shoppers inside of the store and to keep weather on the outside.

Wrecking Corp. also had to build emergency exits and walkways for any pedestrian traffic near the demolition.

“The stores have been very cooperative,” Hughes said. “The main issue is safety for customers and employees.”

The on-site crushing operation is being performed by Hawkins Unlimited, a subcontractor for Wrecking Corp. from Glasgow, Va. Presently, workers are crushing footers and slabs from the demolished Burlington Coat Factory. When that is finished, Hawkins will stop the operation and start up again after the J.C. Penney building is demolished.

Ed Hawkins, owner of Hawkins Unlimited, indicated that 30,000 cu. yds. (23,000 cu m) of material will be put through his crushing operation. All of it will stay on-site. For the most part, the debris is crushed into crush and run or 57-stone that is clean with no fines in it.

Hawkins owns a crusher and a screener, both made by Pegson/Powerscreen. The crusher is a Trakpactor 428, and the screener is a Turbo Chieftain 1800. If the pieces are too big, Hawkins uses a Hitachi EX200 with a hammer attachment to break them into a more manageable size. The company also has rented a tracked excavator with a thumb attachment to load material into the crusher.

Hawkins is an advocate of keeping crushing operations on the job site and recycling material to be used on the same site. He called it “more economical” and said it saves fuel because there are fewer trucks on the highways, which will result in less wear and tear on the roads and minimize traffic congestion.

There are numerous reasons for Coliseum Mall’s demise. Its age (three decades old) was a large factor, as well as declining sales. What’s more, anchor tenants were ambivalent regarding future plans and merchants that closed shop were not being replaced at the same rate.

Peninsula Town Center, opening spring 2009, will contain retail, entertainment and dining venues. Office space and residences also are part of the project catering to people who want to live and work where they shop and have fun. The project’s $200 million price tag includes Wrecking Corp.’s contract for demolition. CEG

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