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Water Theme Park Paves the Way for Bargain Hunters

Wed January 26, 2000 - Southeast Edition
Cindy Riley

When VisionLand amusement park opened its doors almost two years ago, all eyes were on the giant wooden roller coaster and thrilling water rides. Now, CMC President Colin Coyne is hoping to make a splash with an adjacent 18,580-square- meter (200,000 sq. ft.) outlet center that’s currently under construction 16 miles southwest of Birmingham, AL.

Site preparation for VisionLand Outlet Center (which is scheduled to open Labor Day Weekend 2000) began last July, with the clearing of trees and general cleanup. Construction on the buildings starts Feb. 1.

“We’re very pleased to be associated with a project of this magnitude. As the site-work contractor, we’re involved in every aspect, including erosion control, clearing, grating, storm sewer, sanitary sewer, water lines, retaining walls (with an average height of 25 feet), curb gutters and asphalt paving,” explained Tom E. Stevens, president of T.E. Stevens Company Inc. of Birmingham.

“We have a budget of $4 million, and I can tell you this is a very time consuming project. We’re moving 800,000 cubic yards of dirt and rock and there will be 90,000 square yards of asphalt paving. There also will be 16,000 linear feet of concrete curb and gutter,” Stevens said.

A total of three D8 and two D6 Caterpillar bulldozers are being used for the dirt excavation, along with five 621 scrapers and two 815 compactors. Mud trucks and various compaction pieces are necessary for site preparation, along with rock drills. A Hitachi EX700 trackhoe and three D300 Caterpillar dump trucks play a key role in rock excavation.

“Also, for cost control, we are crushing most of the rock on site to be used for stone bedding and backfilling for pipes and foundations. We feel this is very significant,” said Stevens, whose company owns all of its equipment.

At the peak of construction, an estimated crew of 150 will be working the site. Like any major project, there are concerns of possible delays due to winter weather (which would require crews to work at night). Storm water management also is a challenge, as is the amount of dirt to be moved in the allotted time.

“I should also point out that on the storm sewer, you’re looking at over 6,000 feet of storm sewer with approximately 1,500 linear feet of 66-inch concrete pipe in the deeper fills. That makes the filling operation very tedious, because of the working conditions of the deep fills with the big pipe. To lay the pipe, we’re using Caterpillar 325s and a Hitachi 700. Also on the grating, we’re cutting a mountain down with 90-foot cuts and then filling the holes approximately 70 linear feet.”

According to Stevens, another challenge will be the need to build a $150,000 pump station to remove sewage off site.

“We’re in a low-lying area and because there’s no sewer in the region [in order to get rid of the sewage], we have to go to one central location — a wet well. Then when the wet well is filled, it’s pumped off site to the nearest manhole where it can be gravity fed to the waste water treatment plant. We’re using prefabricated materials and it will probably take about a month to complete. We should tackle that project around the middle to end of our schedule. Our final responsibility will be the curb and gutters and paving.”

The general contractor for VisionLand Outlet Center is Charles & Vinzant Construction Company, a 22-year-old Birmingham firm which handles retail, hospitality, health care and industrial construction. Charles Ferlisi, who owns the business along with Don Vinzant and Matt Lukens, called the multi-million dollar project an exciting experience.

“We’re very proud to be a part of this, because we feel it will be extremely successful. We have an impressive team working on the center, including QORE. QORE is the geotechnical consultant, doing the soil testing. And I also thing that Mr. Coyne is an exceptional developer.”

Coyne, who serves as managing partner of VisionLand Outlet Center, is extremely pleased with the design he’s selected for the center.

“We’re working with the North Carolina-based architectural firm of Adams Hennon. We’ve done business with them for a number of years and they know the product very well,” said Coyne, whose business is also located in North Carolina.”

“Outlet centers are unique for several reasons. They’re different from traditional centers because they tend to be outdoors in a strip or village configuration. I think often the design is rather boring. With the VisionLand project, we’ve tried to make it fun. It’s a very tongue-in-cheek steel industrial look that captures a little bit of Birmingham’s background and history in a very entertaining way. The buildings being constructed will be like old steel mills that are very colorful and bright — very similar to Main Street at Disneyland. I think retail shopping malls, particularly outlet centers, need to be lively because the average shopping time there is much longer. We’ve tried to create a fun atmosphere with the design, even in the food court area,” added Coyne.

According to VisionLand Assistant General Manager Carolyn Boos, “It’s a great addition to the Birmingham area and a wonderful compliment to our park. It will offer a little more variety to families, and there will be a wide variety of top name manufacturers. It’s interesting to watch the center develop and progress,” said Boos.

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