Project Manager Jeremy King describes the West Manchester Town Center as a “typical commercial job,” but the significance of the project to I.B. Abel is anything but typical. This project, which will convert the once-struggling West Manchester Mall into a thriving, open-air retail center, is the latest testament to the firm’s successful entry into the commercial market in November 2013. “We spread out our footprint to encompass more of the electrical construction work in the area than we have before,” King said of the expansion. As he looks toward the completion of the mall project this fall, he anticipates turning over a roughly 20,000-man-hour project on schedule, within budget, and completely absent of safety incidents.
The 33-year-old West Manchester Mall was a prime candidate for a national trend known as “demalling,” which involves transforming an enclosed mall into an open-air town center. The existing 706,000-square-foot, one-story facility was outdated and underused. Dallas-based M&R Investors recognized the value of this growing area due to economic progress, including a major planned reconstruction of Memorial Hospital, and its close proximity to the busy intersection of Route 30 and Carlisle Road.
The overall project entails renovating a portion of the existing mall, constructing four new pad sites and an outdoor plaza, paving parking lots and drive-through streets, and installing site lighting. The vision is to redevelop the site with smaller retail centers complementing a diverse mix of retail, restaurant, and entertainment anchor tenants, while incorporating landscaped outdoor public space in an open-air environment.
I.B. Abel worked directly for the general contractor, Bailey Construction of Atlanta, which specializes in retail and entertainment projects. Bailey has performed multiple projects for M&R Investors, but for I.B. Abel, this was a maiden voyage with both firms.
“It was a pleasure working with the I.B. Abel team,” said Bailey’s Project Engineer, Jared Schaffner. “Their expertise and responsiveness, both in the office and field, were a big help in meeting our project’s tight schedule deadlines.”
I.B. Abel’s scope included upgrading three existing services, including electrical, phone, and fire alarm. Plus, the job called for building vault infrastructure and tenant fit-out for stores, including Burlington Coat Factory, Buffalo Wild Wings, Firehouse Subs, AT&T, GNC, GameStop, Designer Shoe Warehouse, Petco, Kirkland’s, Subway, and Sprint. This lease-driven project required I.B. Abel to deliver results within an unforgiving, fast-paced, on-call environment.
“They (the owner) would sign a tenant and need a quick turn-around on an estimate,” King said. “Because the base mall job wasn’t done, there was no power, phone, or fire alarm infrastructure in yet. We would have to run temporary infrastructure to that space so they would be open for business.”
What started in August 2014 as an $800,000 effort has mushroomed into a $3-million-plus project, due to multiple scope increases and a continued flow of signed leases.
Bailey Construction was also impressed by I.B. Abel’s professionalism, dedication to safety, and ability to mobilize quickly.
“If we need 10 extra people on the project for next two weeks, we can get them there,” King saidThe I.B. Abel team is proud of the firm’s successful expansion into the commercial sector after more than 100 years of focus on industrial clients. It required clearing many hurdles, especially in the areas of business development and estimating. Although one of the main architects of the expansion, King gives all the credit to members of the West Manchester Town Center team, including Estimator Troy Markle and Site General Foreman Jason VanSickle, the first employee of the Commercial Division.
“I.B. Abel is synonymous with doing large industrial projects,” King said. “Nobody expects us to be competitive on a project like this. When people drive by and see our sign in front of the mall, there’s a sense of pride for all of us.”