Hard Hat Chat

Observations and Conversations about Commercial Construction, Development and Management

3 Tips to a Successful High-End Restaurant Construction Project

There’s no question about it, commercial construction is back in a big way in the Chicago area, as Crain’s Chicago Business recently reported in a story featuring Englewood Construction, activity of is up 16 percent when compared to the same time period last year for all commercial construction.   Commercial general contractors are finding plenty of opportunities in the office, apartment and hotel construction markets right now. At Englewood Construction, we have had the good fortune of being attached to several high-profile, upscale downtown Chicago restaurant construction projects.  As the economy has improved steadily, the restaurant construction market has received a big boost. During the recent downturn, families gave up fine dining expenditures in favor of fast casual restaurants, or, simply eating at home to keep expenditures down. Now that confidence is back, high-end restaurants are seeing more traffic and smart restaurateurs are taking advantage of this upswing to initiate new restaurant construction projects.   Recently, Englewood completed the 23,000-square-foot Harry Caray’s 7th Inning Stretch and Chicago Sports Museum at Chicago’s famed Water Tower Place, remodeled the 30-year-old, five-star Spiaggia on Michigan Avenue and helped rebrand and reimagine Fultons on The River into River Roast in Chicago’s popular River North neighborhood.  Savvy restaurant owners know they have to keep things fresh and exciting for potential customers in such a highly competitive market. As these restaurateurs have demonstrated, one way to keep from going stale is to initiate a substantial restaurant construction project, either through expansions, as in Harry Caray’s or remodeling and rebranding as in Spiaggia and River Roast.  Of course, working with the best local restaurant general commercial contractor will help increase the chances of your restaurant construction project being a success. For these following reasons, restaurateurs should consider working with an experienced restaurant general contractor.  1.Design savings. Working directly with a restaurateur generally implies a negotiated bid scenario. This could ultimately save the owner money on a restaurant construction project as the best general contractors will be able to recognize cost savings on materials and get the best current market costs for design elements. When a general commercial contractor is viewed as a partner and not just a paid service provider, commercial construction projects generally run much smoother and realize cost savings for clients. 2.Scheduling. Going dark can hurt any business, but if a restaurant owner only has one or two locations, as is the case with many high-end restaurants, it can be a risky scenario. The best general contractors will help restaurant owners find the best time in a calendar year to go dark for a restaurant construction project. This typically would be a time in the year when sales are at their lowest. The commercial general contractor should then try and schedule the majority of the work to be done in this timeframe, regardless of the season, and complete the restaurant construction project with as little disruption to the core business as possible. Time is money.  3.Working in a multi-use building. In an urban setting like Chicago, stand-alone restaurants are rare. Most restaurants are located in buildings with many other tenants.  In the case of the aforementioned Harry Caray’s, Water Tower Place is home to retail, restaurants, apartments and a hotel. This means other tenants must be taken into consideration during a restaurant renovation project and their operations cannot be disrupted in the process. - In the Harry Caray’s project, special attention and consideration had to be taken to avoid any noise pollution that might be detrimental to neighboring retailers during peak daytime hours while being mindful of the residential and hotel tenants overnight. Loading dock scheduling can get tricky too, as many businesses often vie for the same delivery times.   Working with an experienced commercial general contractor will make sure that a high-end restaurant construction project avoids pitfalls and is completed in a timely and cost-efficient manner.

Recently, Englewood completed the 23,000-square-foot Harry Caray’s 7th Inning Stretch and Chicago Sports Museum at Chicago’s famed Water Tower Place.

There’s no question about it, commercial construction is back in a big way in the Chicago area, as Crain’s Chicago Business recently reported in a story featuring Englewood Construction, activity of is up 16 percent when compared to the same time period last year for all commercial construction.

Commercial general contractors are finding plenty of opportunities in the office, apartment and hotel construction markets right now. At Englewood Construction, we have had the good fortune of being attached to several high-profile, upscale downtown Chicago restaurant construction projects.

As the economy has improved steadily, the restaurant construction market has received a big boost. During the recent downturn, families gave up fine dining expenditures in favor of fast casual restaurants, or, simply eating at home to keep expenditures down. Now that confidence is back, high-end restaurants are seeing more traffic and smart restaurateurs are taking advantage of this upswing to initiate new restaurant construction projects.

Recently, Englewood completed the 23,000-square-foot Harry Caray’s 7th Inning Stretch and Chicago Sports Museum at Chicago’s famed Water Tower Place, remodeled the 30-year-old, five-star Spiaggia on Michigan Avenue and helped rebrand and reimagine Fultons on The River into River Roast in Chicago’s popular River North neighborhood.

Savvy restaurant owners know they have to keep things fresh and exciting for potential customers in such a highly competitive market. As these restaurateurs have demonstrated, one way to keep from going stale is to initiate a substantial restaurant construction project, either through expansions, as in Harry Caray’s or remodeling and rebranding as in Spiaggia and River Roast.

Of course, working with the best local restaurant general commercial contractor will help increase the chances of your restaurant construction project being a success. For these following reasons, restaurateurs should consider working with an experienced restaurant general contractor.

  1. Design savings. Working directly with a restaurateur generally implies a negotiated bid scenario. This could ultimately save the owner money on a restaurant construction project as the best general contractors will be able to recognize cost savings on materials and get the best current market costs for design elements. When a general commercial contractor is viewed as a partner and not just a paid service provider, commercial construction projects generally run much smoother and realize cost savings for clients.
  2. Scheduling. Going dark can hurt any business, but if a restaurant owner only has one or two locations, as is the case with many high-end restaurants, it can be a risky scenario. The best general contractors will help restaurant owners find the best time in a calendar year to go dark for a restaurant construction project. This typically would be a time in the year when sales are at their lowest. The commercial general contractor should then try and schedule the majority of the work to be done in this timeframe, regardless of the season, and complete the restaurant construction project with as little disruption to the core business as possible. Time is money.
  3. Working in a multi-use building. In an urban setting like Chicago, stand-alone restaurants are rare. Most restaurants are located in buildings with many other tenants.  In the case of the aforementioned Harry Caray’s, Water Tower Place is home to retail, restaurants, apartments and a hotel. This means other tenants must be taken into consideration during a restaurant renovation project and their operations cannot be disrupted in the process. In the Harry Caray’s project, special attention and consideration had to be taken to avoid any noise pollution that might be detrimental to neighboring retailers during peak daytime hours while being mindful of the residential and hotel tenants overnight. Loading dock scheduling can get tricky too, as many businesses often vie for the same delivery times.

Working with an experienced commercial general contractor will make sure that a high-end restaurant construction project avoids pitfalls and is completed in a timely and cost-efficient manner.

Chuck Taylor
Director of Operations
Tel: 847-233-9200 x712

Questions? Comments?
You can reach me at chuck.taylor@englewoodconstruction.com
www.EnglewoodConstruction.com

How Commercial General Contractors Can Help Improve Shopping Center Space for Lease

Help-Shopping-Center-Owners-Lease-Space

Englewood moved escalators to the corners of Westfield’s Fox Valley Mall in Aurora, Ill. to create better foot-traffic flow and help struggling retailers.

Even in the best shopping center developments, not all spaces are created equal. Many shopping centers owners have difficulty leasing or keeping consistent retail tenants in certain portions of their shopping mall. In our shopping center construction experience at Englewood Construction, we have found that anchor tenants and smaller tenants in the center of the shopping center typically thrive, yet some pockets do not generate the traffic or the buzz necessary to create a successful retail development.

Surprisingly, the spaces that typically do the worst business are stores right next to shopping mall anchors. Commonly shoppers either visit anchors at the shopping center development, or, they enter at an anchor store and then make a bee-line for the center of the shopping mall, passing most retailers in between. This creates a problem for shopping mall owners.

Never fear. While admittedly there is no silver bullet for leasing woes, a good commercial general contractor can help make some minor changes to a shopping center development that may provide a boost to struggling tenants and help shopping mall owners capture higher, more consistent rents.

Here are four ways shopping mall owners can improve their property with minor shopping center construction projects.

  1. Move the escalators. Changing the flow of a shopping center development is one of the best ways to bring traction to less-visited portions of the mall. Most shopping malls have escalators in the center of the development. By moving escalators to the corners of the shopping center development and adjacent to anchor tenants, shoppers can now spend idle time on escalators and perhaps see stores they would otherwise simply pass. It also gives them a chance to check out both floors of the mall’s hard-to-sell areas. Englewood successfully completed this for Westfield at the Fox Valley Mall in Aurora, Ill. and the Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills, Ill. Once we were able to adjust traffic flow for mall owners, tenants around the newly located escalators began to fair much better.
  2. Install more kiosks around new escalators. Kiosk owners often pay the highest rent per-square-foot in shopping center developments to be in areas with the highest foot traffic. While they are typically drawn to the center of the mall, the new locations of the escalators will create more opportunities as the majority of the mall’s shoppers will pass the kiosks at some point during their shopping trip. The center of the mall will still attract kiosks, but these new high-traffic retail areas will create more opportunities to secure quality rents.
  3. Increase gross leasable area (GLA) by removing decorative pieces. Fountains are nice, but, let’s be honest, they don’t generate revenue. Most shoppers just fly right by such decorative pieces and never give them a second thought. It’s probably best to initiate an easy shopping center construction job and take these decorations out to increase the mall’s GLA. Shopping mall owners could add a coffee shop or a food station. Both would generate more revenue and probably be more of an attraction to shoppers.
  4. Create an entertainment area for children. While it may not be a direct revenue generator, it can help drive traffic to a specific portion of the shopping center development and also attract certain tenants. By developing a play area for kids in a slow corridor of the mall, mall owners could see foot traffic increase. More importantly, this demographic concentration would appeal to retailers such as toy stores or a children’s clothing store. By bringing targeted shoppers and tenants together, a formerly slow portion of a shopping center development could be revitalized and tenants could have an easier time achieving solid sales.

These are all relatively easy shopping center construction projects that can really benefit tenants, which in turn will help strengthen the balance sheets of shopping mall owners. No shopping center development is perfect, but a good retail general contractor can be an owner’s best tool for turning a mediocre shopping mall into a highly-profitable retail development.

Read related post by Englewood Construction on Shopping Center Construction and Development:

Commercial Construction Real Estate Trends from ICSC 2014

Commercial Construction Checklist for Retrofitting a Shopping Center in Today’s Climate

Retail Construction Trends: Shopping Center Construction Enters Renaissance with Renovation Work

Chuck Taylor
Director of Operations
Tel: 847-233-9200 x712

Questions? Comments?
You can reach me at chuck.taylor@englewoodconstruction.com
www.EnglewoodConstruction.com

Commercial Construction Real Estate Trends from ICSC 2014

If you are a player in the retail world, odds are you spent a few days in Las Vegas last month at ICSC’s Global Retail Real Estate Convention” (RECON). For one week each year, the commercial construction industry converges on the desert city as national retail construction firms, retail brokers and retailers all get together to make deals and plan for the following year. It’s always an exciting event for the retail real estate industry.

Commercial Construction Real Estate Trends from ICSC 2014This was my 18th time at RECON, and I have to say, I left much more upbeat than I have in previous years. I felt like this was the largest RECON I’ve attended since 2008, the last year of the retail construction boom. Last year’s RECON, as noted on this blog, was very positive, but there was still an element of caution in the air. Retailers and retail construction firms were ready to get back to work, but a key part of the equation was missing—commercial real estate lenders were not fully on board with new retail development yet.

If the buzz at this year’s RECON is an indicator of future retail trends—and it generally is—then the tide is about to change quickly, as commercial real estate lenders are now demonstrating real interest in new retail construction.

Here are my three takeaways for retail construction trends from RECON 2014:

  1. Money is out there. From meeting with our connections in the commercial real estate banking industry, we’ve been assured there is no shortage of financing for commercial construction projects today. In fact, our commercial real estate financing sources are actively reaching out to us to see what our developer clients are working on. They are all looking for quality commercial construction projects and want to fund new commercial real estate development opportunities. This is a far cry from the last few years, when commercial construction firms and some retailers were ready to go, but lenders were still apprehensive. Today, commercial real estate lenders are complaining about the difficult competition in the lending market and the lack of quality commercial construction projects to finance. Which brings us to the second trend…
  2. Tenant scrutiny. While money is readily available, commercial real estate lenders won’t just give it to anybody. That’s probably a good thing, but it will likely keep commercial construction levels from reaching full potential in the next few years. In the past, location was enough to get substantial commercial real estate financing, but today’s lenders need to see a healthy tenant roster as well. Six or seven years ago, a mom-and-pop shop or an unproven international retailer could get a prime spot in a shopping center. Not today. Now, lenders want to see national, proven retailers attached to a commercial construction project, which amounts to low risk for them. In fact, when putting together shopping center construction deals today, we are often given a list of retailers from lenders that we can’t pursue. Some of the names wouldn’t be shocking, but it does show a change in the commercial lending environment. If you don’t have a stellar tenant list, don’t bother asking for the money.
  3. The bigger the better. Real Estate Developers are looking for large ground-up retail construction projects or significant retail redevelopment opportunities. We are currently in the design process with a client for multiple major shopping center redevelopment projects across the country. This hasn’t been the case in recent years, but the trend seems to be changing. In the Chicago-area alone, we can point to several major shopping center construction projects taking place. In Chicago, the New City Project is underway in Lincoln Park’s Clybourn Avenue corridor, an addition is being put on the Chicago Premium Outlets in Aurora, a new outlet center is going up in Country Club Hills, and a redevelopment will be taking place at the Charlestowne Mall in St. Charles, along with additional space being added to Hawthorn Center in Vernon Hills. We haven’t seen that much new retail construction at once in quite some time.

All and all, it was a great experience at ICSC once again. The trend I’ll take away that got me most excited is the commercial construction industry can think big again. It’s been a long time coming.

Bill Di Santo
President
Tel: 847-233-9200 x710

Questions? Comments?
You can reach me at bill.disanto@englewoodconstruction.com
www.englewoodconstruction.com