Scheduled to open this fall, the Shoppes at Legacy Park in Tuscaloosa, Ala., will serve as a major shopping center for the college town best known for Crimson Tide athletics. Located off McFarland Boulevard and 13th Street in much of the former Cedar Crest neighborhood, the $55 million project is being built in an area hard hit by a devastating twister in 2011.
“Tuscaloosa had a real need with the growth of the University and the overall market,” said Keith Owens, managing partner of Alumni Development of Clanton, Ala., which is building the shopping center. “Really, it is the first major, non-multifamily/student housing, retail project since the tornado.
“It is built by stronger, better and more improved standards, and is one of the first MX5 zoning developments completed in the new zoning regulations,” said Owens, noting that patrons will particularly enjoy the variety of shops and restaurants. “Legacy Park will draw from East Mississippi, West Central Alabama and allow customers in this market an option they are currently traveling to Birmingham to shop.”
Anchor stores include The Fresh Market, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Bed Bath & Beyond, Cost Plus World Market, Pet-Smart and DSW.
Owens said Legacy Park also will have a number of eateries and smaller retailers, all new to the local market. A grand opening is expected by October 2015, although some stores plan to serve customers before the school year begins.
“Work on the project is roughly 80 to 90 percent complete,” said Eddie Cassell, senior project manager of general contractor Stewart Perry Company Inc. “Two of the eight buildings have been completed and are in the process of being stocked with merchandise. We are pouring sidewalk, landscaping, paving and exterior finishes. One building is under construction and is approximately 50 percent complete. That building has grading activities going on. All of these buildings have exterior façade of brick and stucco, storefront and canopies. The city has modified its requirements pertaining to EIFS/stucco. A lot of attention was paid to roofing wind uplift ratings.”
As for the main challenges on the project, said Cassell, “There are multiple tenants, and turnover/completion dates vary, depending on the tenant. Likewise, the drawing plans/specs are typically released at different times, depending on how long the design process takes between the project architect and tenants’ architect. This makes it challenging to bid, as it would be much easier to bid all at one time.
“We have different subcontractors of the same trade doing different buildings, in some cases. It depends on who is the low and qualified bidder on that particular building. There was an open culvert running across the site that was boxed in by the city. This was a city project that involved some coordination with our work. Also, McFarland Boulevard is being widened along one side of the site. Adjoining roads have been closed, in order to perform this work. Coordination was required between that contractor and the Alabama Department of Transportation. Traffic flow patterns have changed during the course of the project, as a result.”
According to Cassell, typically work has been phased, depending on when the developer comes to an agreement with the stores and when the design process is completed. “The developer has attempted to lump turnover dates for anchors together, but it’s not always possible, depending on numerous factors.”
Approximately 1,500 loads, nearly 20,000 cu. yds. (15,291 cu m) of soil, have been removed from the site. An almost equal amount has been brought back onto site.
“The tornado destroyed everything that was previously standing on the site,” said Cassell. “The owner cleared the site of all structures, so it was an open field. The existing soils are basically unsuitable to build upon, and rain affected the soils greatly. Thousands of yards of unsuitable material were removed from the site and replaced with suitable material. We used as much of the onsite soils as possible.
“Treating the soils on site was limited. We couldn’t lime stabilize for fear of lime dust being blown onto existing streets, apartments, homes and stores. We also didn’t have a lot of room to lime treat the soils. We did try to condition the soils and dry wet material, but due to the time restraints and wet weather, this was minimal. There is a massive storm water detention system under the parking lot in the middle of the site. This involves a vast system of pipes and stone.”
Equipment being used in building the Shoppes at Legacy Park includes triaxle dump trucks, a D39 dozer, a SK35 skid steer, a Dynapac roller, a D37 dozer, a WA250 loader, a Komatsu PC88 excavator and a Cat 44 roller. The machinery has been utilized for trench excavation, mass grading and hauling dirt.
There have not been any significant setbacks to date, however wet weather has been an issue.
“Rain has been a challenge. We have had at least 20 abnormal rain days on the project since September 2014,” said Cassell.
Jim Page, president and chief executive officer of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, said the greater Tuscaloosa community is excited about the Shoppes at Legacy Park.
“The anticipation is palpable,” said Page. “With six new-to-market anchors, as well as other small shop retail, this project offers options never before experienced in the Tuscaloosa market. It will certainly eliminate many shopping trips to Birmingham, which will help keep our tax dollars at home.
“There is an adage that retail follows retail, and we are finding that to be true. Retailers are paying close attention to the growth occurring in the Tuscaloosa market, and many want to be a part of it. Adding such a significant amount of new-to-the-market retail at one time sends a very strong signal to the national retail community.
“The importance of this particular project to our post-tornado rebuilding efforts cannot be overstated, primarily because it is being constructed in the heart of the path of the tornado.”
Doug Cantrell, senior project manager of MJM Architects of Nashville, Tenn., played a key role in the design process, along with MJM partner Steve Maher. According to Maher one of the unique aspects of this project that ultimately defined the project direction was collaboration with the city of Tuscaloosa development offices.
“A new zoning ordinance was in the process of being adopted and MJM Architects and the development staff worked to find opportunities to adapt the certain provisions to better address the needs of the potential tenants at the Shoppes of Legacy Park,” said Maher.
“Alumni Development and the design team worked very closely with the adjoining neighborhood, and invested a significant amount of time and resources in the design of a pedestrian access and additional site amenities to enrich the connection to the community.
“Essentially, the challenge was to marry the new zoning ordinance with the needs of a typical retailer,” said Maher. “The city really participated in the solution, and this is an important point to make, because most jurisdictions are very rigid and unwelcoming. This was not the case with the staff and leadership in Tuscaloosa.”
According to Maher, the buildings were designed using primarily masonry and real stucco, a firm requirement by the city. Facades were activated as required by the zoning code by articulated wall panels, glazing, canopies and landscaping.
“One unique design feature, recognizable in Tuscaloosa, are the houndstooth panels created with and intricate brick patterning and used throughout the center to recall the tradition of football in the city,” said Maher.
Through the use of natural materials such as stone, brick and stucco, the buildings are able to withstand high traffic and the elements, with minimal maintenance. Sustainability was also a consideration in the site and building design.
“Underground detention was utilized to make more efficient use of the site, and high efficiency mechanical units and lighting are used throughout the site, said Maher. “As much as feasible, materials were locally sourced to reduce shipping. Using the natural true stucco material was a more sustainable solution that the synthetic solution. The buildings exceed the newer more stringent energy standards.
“Months of negotiations and substantial investments by the development team were necessary to create a place that would be worthy of its position within the fabric of the community. The name of the center itself is intended as a reminder of the lives lost and how the community worked to overcome the devastation of the tornado.”
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