Hard Hat Chat

Observations and Conversations about Commercial Construction, Development and Management

2015 Commercial Construction Industry Trends and Predictions

It has been another whirlwind year at Englewood Construction and we are happy to report that our predicted 2014 commercial construction trends came true, which has meant a lot of new projects on our end.

The increased commercial construction activity paved the way for some large new retail construction projects and restaurant construction, as national retailers and restaurant owners became more confident in the improving economy. This year, we expect this activity to carry-over in a big way as national retailers, mall owners and restaurateurs position themselves for continued growth.

Now to get to it—our predictions for 2015 commercial construction trends:

1) Shopping center owners reshape the mall

Shopping center owners are embracing commercial construction projects to revive and revitalize the mall concept. Many national retailers are moving away from tucked-away corners in shopping malls, where they may have enjoyed lower rents, to premium areas with more foot traffic.

Coopers Hawk - Restaurant Construction

Ground up construction project are on the rise. Englewood Construction recently broke ground on an 11,265-square-foot, ground-up Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant in Oaklawn, Ill.

However, to help offset the cost of a more expensive center-court location, national retailers are opting to take smaller floor plates rather than replicate the same size corner location store. For shopping mall owners, this has meant finding ways to reconfigure areas with mall renovation projects to support more retailers with smaller footprints.

A strategy used by shopping mall owners to make this work is to improve sight lines for shoppers. When more retailers are packed together, some can get lost in the shuffle. Using a retail construction contractor to make both signage and showroom space visible to shoppers is imperative. Englewood recently did this with Harry Caray’s 7th Inning Stretch and Chicago Sports Museum in Chicago’s Water Tower Place. While signage was visible to shoppers, the restaurant space could not be seen from the escalators. So we pushed out the restaurant space to make it more visible and inviting. Based on the success of pushing out Harry Caray’s to make it more visible, we expect to see a retail construction trend with more retailers calling attention to their store locations through creative commercial construction problem solving.

2) Ground up is on the up and up

We have seen a refreshing amount of ground-up commercial construction projects recently. While there still is ample space for retrofits, many retailers and restaurateurs have decided to build ground-up in order to meet brand standards. This has been great news for general commercial construction contractors. Just last month, we broke ground on a three new projects: Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant in the Chicago area, a Season’s 52 from Darden in New Jersey and a 55,000-square-foot Hobby Lobby at Seabrook Crossings in Seabrook, N.H. And earlier this year, we completed a ground-up retail construction project Goodwill in the Chicago area. It’s always good to see this much dirt moving in the commercial construction industry and this activity should gain velocity in 2015.

3) New restaurant construction is back on the menu

Restaurant construction has been hot the past few years, but the majority of it was confined to upscale activity. That has changed in recent months, so when it comes to 2015 restaurant construction trends all signs point to a very robust pipeline across all product types. As consumers look to pay for experiences that can’t be replicated at home, or, on-line, restaurant construction for fine dining, fast casual, and fast food concepts should all see a steady uptick. For example, Englewood recently began an expansion at white tablecloth restaurant The Purple Pig in Chicago, as well as the renovation of a Yard House in Kansas City’s Power and Light District. Simultaneously, we’re working with Red Robin and Buffalo Wild Wings in the fast casual arena to roll out several new restaurants in 2015.

While national commercial contractors like Englewood have a lot to look forward to in 2015, we’re not done with 2014 yet. Don’t miss our next blog post where we will cover the highs and lows of commercial construction this year.

Shopping Center Development Strategies: How to Win Against Online Retail

Stratford Square Commercial Construction

Stratford Square in Bloomingdale, Ill. is undergoing a redevelopment that will include a Round1 bowling concept.

While the shopping center experience is far from over, it’s safe to say that shopping center developers and owners are working harder than ever to compete for foot traffic. The rise of on-line shopping has been a boon to retailers, but if we are honest, it has been detrimental to commercial general construction, with the closing of many brick and mortar retail stores.

That’s why savvy shopping center developers are developing new strategies to compete and win against online retail. This strategy to create an experience, rather than just a shopping mall development with a lot of big name retailers is a step in the right direction. By creating an entertaining environment, shopping center developers are betting that it will bring foot traffic back to the mall. This crowd may not be there for a shopping experience first and foremost, but the longer they stay the better chance they have of becoming a traditional shopper.

By partnering with experienced commercial general construction firms, shopping center owners are redeveloping or adding on entertainment options at shopping mall developments that may not have been the norm 10-15 years ago. These new options create the desired experience that shopping mall owners are trying to achieve.

Some of these new shopping center development options include:

  • Fine dining. While retail items can be purchased on-line from the comfort of your couch, the fine dining experience cannot be replicated at home. People who want a break from cooking and to be served in a pleasant atmosphere still have to go to restaurants. Shopping mall owners are discovering that upgrading their developments with high-end restaurant construction can be a key in driving traffic to the mall.
  • Entertainment options. Recently, trends such as adding entertainment options like bowling alleys and video arcades have become popular. While not typical retail construction options for shopping malls, owners know they do drive foot traffic to their shopping centers.

For example, at Woodfield Mall, one of the Chicago area’s most popular malls, the owners have decided to add Level 257, a video-game themed restaurant. Another Chicago area mall, Stratford Square, has announced the addition of Round1, a new bowling concept. These retail construction projects will help bring a new set of visitors to the malls that otherwise may never have ventured to the shopping center developments.

  • Movie theater enhancement. Sometimes, it’s not enough to just offer a movie theater anymore. Shopping mall owners are trying to lure movie theater operators that have developed a new experience, thus, hopefully driving new traffic. Block 37 on Chicago’s State Street just announced a new AMC dine-in movie concept. Several other movie theaters are providing options such as reserved seating or valet parking to differentiate themselves and create a new experience.
  • Create a town center feel. Sometimes, it’s not enough to add new retail concepts. Creating an environment that can lead to several different experiences can be a game changer. Next to the Fashion Outlets of Chicago in Rosemont, Ill., the municipality has created an entire town center that offers several dining and entertainment options. Live music can be heard almost any night of the week at several venues and family entertainment is often staged in the new town square. It even has an indoor skydiving center. This retail construction project has been a boon to the city, as it is packed on weekend nights with everyone from families to couples and teens seeking entertainment and dining experiences. The Fashion Outlets benefit from this overflow traffic as well. Shopping center developers that cater to family entertainment have an excellent chance of wooing multiple generations of shoppers.

It’s clear there is no single answer to enhance a shopping center development and make it relevant, but with retail construction projects that approach the traditional shopping mall in an innovative way, shopping center owners may create an experience that keeps them competitive in the new age of on-line retail.

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

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

Englewood Construction: Ten Years of Providing Leading Commercial Construction Services

Bill Di Santo - Englewood ConstructionWe don’t like to get hung up on milestones too much at Englewood Construction, but I think we would be remiss if we did not take a little time to reflect on the firm’s 10-year anniversary and the current state of our national commercial construction company, as well as acknowledge all of the people and hard work that got us to where we are today.

Even though Englewood opened its doors in 2004, the talent nucleus of the company has been together since 1993. When we set out to found our own commercial general contracting firm, we pooled together decades of knowledge across all commercial construction sectors to build a leading national general construction firm.

Like all businesses, we were faced with the economic downturn of the mid-to-late 2000s. But it was real estate and commercial construction that bore the brunt of this recession. It may not have been the most auspicious time to start a business, but looking back, I wouldn’t change it. It forced Englewood to develop into a nimble and innovative commercial general construction company, which will undoubtedly make us stronger in our second decade. I can also proudly say that despite the difficulty of the economic environment, we never laid off one employee. We knew we would need this top commercial construction talent when the days turned brighter…and boy, were we right.

When we began the company, our core competency was in national retail and restaurant construction. As the firm grew and new opportunities presented themselves, we were able to parlay our commercial construction experience and incorporate different concepts and services into our offerings. From big box retail construction and high-end national retail construction to fast-casual dining and white table cloth, award-winning restaurants, we do them all now.

Our projects escalated in size as well, as we frequently work on shopping center construction now, having completed several mall renovation projects and ground-up projects, such as a 420,000-square-foot shopping center in Canton, Conn. In the coming months, we will have new shopping center construction projects to talk about, so stay tuned.

Completely new markets have opened up to Englewood as well. In 2009, we expanded into the hotel construction market and this year, I’m happy to say Englewood will be working in the multifamily construction market and medical real estate construction sector.

Our geographic reach has extended too. In the past five years, Englewood has worked on commercial general construction projects in 35 different states. With a growing subcontractor base of 20,000, we are able to go anywhere in North America a client demands. In recent years, we have done work in Canada and completed our first of many projects in pioneering places such as North Dakota, where the shale oil industry is building boom towns overnight.

As our markets and geographic scope have expanded, our commercial construction capabilities have also evolved. Englewood has taken on more design-build construction work in recent years, offering better, more comprehensive services to our clients. Now, our clients can choose to have one point of contact for their commercial construction projects and Englewood takes on more responsibility. This formula has often resulted in commercial construction savings for our clients as we have more control over keeping the project on time and on budget.

All the while, we have remained a forward-thinking company. This award-winning Hard Hat Chat blog, which focuses on value-based content such as commercial construction lessons and tips, is a testament to our commitment to connecting with clients and industry enthusiasts in new and evolving mediums. We are constantly looking for new ways to be innovative. That’s why we are adopting a new email domain for Englewood. To better reflect our industry, we are changing our emails to @ECI.build. You can reach me at bdisanto@ECI.build starting in October. I hope to hear from many of you.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge our clients as we mark this 10-year anniversary. Maintaining client relationships is the single most important reason we have flourished over the last decade. We have client relationships that go back 30 years, which have helped accelerate the growth of Englewood. While we are always seeking out clients that are a proper fit for our commercial construction services and expertise, we are so grateful for the clients we have developed quality relationships with throughout our careers and we plan to continue to go new places with them in the future.

Chicago architect Daniel Burnham famously said “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work.” This is something I remind my colleagues of frequently. The future is very bright as the commercial construction industry is revving up and we continue to grow into new commercial construction markets. As we expand our commercial construction services and capabilities into the next decade of the company, I see big things on the horizon. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Bill Di Santo
Tel: 847-233-9200 x710

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