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Observations and Conversations about Commercial Construction, Development and Management

The Keys to Making Big Box Retail Construction Projects Successfully Fit Smaller, Urban Footprints like CityTarget on State Street

Englewood Construction has worked on a number of Chicago retail construction projects in high-traffic urban areas, such as American Girl Place on Michigan Avenue.

Englewood Construction has worked on a number of Chicago retail construction projects in high-traffic urban areas, such as American Girl Place on Michigan Avenue.

With the recent Chicago commercial construction news of Target moving to State Street and Wal-Mart opening its Neighborhood Market store at Presidential Towers, it begs the question of what other big box retailers might take advantage of current commercial construction costs and available space to introduce a smaller concept store to downtown Chicago. Is this a new retail construction trend? Probably so.

hhgregg is certainly creating buzz in Chicago retail construction with a number of retail retrofit construction projects in Chicago’s suburbs, so perhaps they are a likely candidate to penetrate the city’s urban retail market.

But regardless of which national big box retailer enters downtown Chicago (or any city’s urban core for that matter), it needs to make sure its commercial general contractor has experience not only in stores with smaller footprints, but also in multi-story, mixed-used urban developments with existing commercial tenants or residents. Why? Because while most people think commercial construction contractors simply build projects, what we really do is manage a process and the logistics of a commercial construction project. So if your general contractor doesn’t tell you the same thing, then you’re not working with one of the best Chicago contractors.

Unlike a suburban retail project in a new-construction shopping center development, the CityTarget and the Neighborhood Market jobs will involve working within a tight city block foot print that likely has only one opening where all goods, materials and debris can enter and exit. Coordinating traffic and usage between other tenants, building operators and construction personnel is like conducting an orchestra.

After working on the retail build-outs of Zara in the former Chicago Place Mall and American Girl at Water Tower Place, both of which were Michigan Avenue retail construction projects, we know a little something about working in high-traffic, urban areas. (As a bonus, click here if you want to know the three secrets to a successful retail store build out in an existing vertical mall or shopping center.)

Wal-mart’s Neighborhood Market store at Presidential Towers poses an even greater coordination challenge for a commercial general contractor. With an office building that’s occupied during the daytime, you can leave all the loud work noise and smelly chemicals to nighttime work. But, in a residential building like Presidential Towers, you can’t do that. The time frame for working is a lot shorter, so your GC has to work smarter.

And if you’re opening a new retail space in a historic building, like the CityTarget on State Street, well that’s a whole other animal. The number of building permits we needed for 520 N. Michigan Ave., a landmark building, would blow your mind. The city is full of orange tag buildings, so align yourself with a Chicago commercial contractor experienced with landmark buildings and historic facades or your construction schedule could go out the window waiting for your GC to pull permits and navigate the appropriate jurisdictional authorities.

Who do you think will be the next big box retailer to offer a small store concept?

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

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