Top commercial construction trends for 2015 include an increase in retail and restaurant ground-up construction and a rise in shopping mall renovations, according to national general construction firm Englewood Construction.
“Confident in the improving economy, national retailers and restaurant owners have been adding new locations this year, and we expect that activity to continue in 2015,” William Di Santo, president of Lemont, Ill.-based Englewood Construction said in a news release. “Shopping mall owners are also renovating their space to make trips to the mall more experiential.”
Retail, restaurant projects on the rise
“In 2014, many retailers and restaurateurs added new venues as well as tore down existing stores and replaced them with new ones in order to meet brand standards,” Di Santo said. “While there still is ample space for retrofits in empty storefronts, we’re seeing more focus on ground-up construction.”
Englewood recently started three new ground-up projects toward the end of 2014, a Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant in Oak Lawn, Ill., a Seasons 52 restaurant from Darden in Bridgewater, NJ, and a 55,000-square-foot Hobby Lobby at Seabrook Crossings in Seabrook, N.H. In 2014, Englewood completed a ground-up Goodwill store in the Chicago area.
“Over the past few years, the majority of restaurant construction has been confined to upscale activity,” Di Santo said. “That has changed in recent months as consumers are returning in all categories, including fine dining, fast casual and fast food. As a result, we expect a very robust pipeline for restaurant work in 2015.”
Englewood also 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. Englewood is also working with Red Robin and Buffalo Wild Wings in the fast casual arena to roll out several new restaurants in 2015.
Investors will continue revitalizing and revamping malls over the upcoming year, such as the Stratford Square Mall in Bloomingdale, Ill., whose owners recently tapped Englewood to manage the mall’s redesign, construction and tenant coordination. “The traditional mall has faced an uphill battle as competition from lifestyle centers and online shopping has only increased in recent years,” said Di Santo. “To draw shoppers to malls, investors will be adding entertainment venues, fine dining and other features that cannot be recreated online.”
“People are willing to go out and spend money on services they cannot get at home.” Di Santo said. “Entertainment options, such as new theater and bowling concepts, are both trending for 2015.”
Retail tenants are also relocating within malls from tucked-away corners to more expensive center-court locations that see more foot traffic. To offset the higher rent, 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, Di Santo said.
Some shopping mall owners make this new density work by improving sight lines for shoppers. “When more retailers are packed together, some can get lost in the shuffle,” Di Santo said. “Using a retail construction contractor to make both signage and showroom space visible to shoppers is imperative.”
For example, in Englewood’s recent construction of Harry Caray’s 7th Inning Stretch and Chicago Sports Museum in Chicago’s Water Tower Place, signage was visible but the restaurant space could not be seen from the escalators. “To bring more exposure, we pushed out the restaurant space to make it more visible and inviting,” Di Santo said. “We expect to see more retailers calling attention to their store locations through creative commercial construction problem solving.”
With the increase in ground up retail and restaurant construction and the reconfiguration of shopping mall space, national commercial contractors like Englewood have a lot to look forward to in 2015, Di Santo said.