Winter Construction – Asheville Outlets

Atlanta-based Winter Construction is a diversified, privately owned general contractor. The company has experience working with clients in the hospitality, retail, government, education, corporate, religious, healthcare, historic restoration, industrial and multifamily markets. One of Winter’s specialties is retail renovations. That ability is currently being brought to bear on the Asheville Outlets project in western North Carolina.

“Winter Construction has been in business since 1978, and we operate primarily in the Southeast,” Project Executive and Team Lead Frank Wartner says. “My role on this project is to be hands-on, overseeing everything from preconstruction to the work that takes place in the field.”

Reshaping the Future

The transformation of Biltmore Square Mall into Asheville Outlets will reshape an existing mall property and create a new shopping destination. When it is open, Asheville Outlets will be home to 75 manufacturer and retail outlet stores, as well as restaurant space. The 325,000-square-foot shopping center is scheduled to open in spring 2015. Retail and restaurant tenant spaces will range in size from 1,000 square feet to 22,000 square feet.

“We are very active in the retail market, so we had the experience and reputation needed for this project,” Wartner says. “Rather than demolish and build new, the decision to renovate this property should be cost-effective in the long run.”

The Asheville Outlets will create roughly 1,000 retail jobs, as well as 200 construction jobs for the local community. It will be a draw for consumers not only in western North Carolina, but also to those in upstate South Carolina and eastern Tennessee.

“This is a growing retirement and tourist area drawing more than 6.1 million visitors annually that doesn’t have a lot of good shopping options,” Wartner says. “This will bring in sought-after outlet stores.”

Massachusetts-based New England Development is the project developer. A premier real estate developer, the company has experience with the development of retail outlets, having recently opened Palm Beach Outlets in West Palm Beach, Fla. New England Development selected Winter Construction to work on the project in May.

Also involved on the project during preconstruction and construction is Adams +

Associates Architecture. Based in Mooresville, N.C., Adams + Associates was established in 1992 and specializes in retail projects.

Communication has been key for all of the partners on the project. Information such as project drawings are shared electronically, and staff has iPads to make notes out in the field. “We can look at documents and make changes quickly,” Wartner says. “That keeps everyone up to speed and helps us adhere to a fast schedule.”

Complex Undertaking

Turning Biltmore Square Mall into Asheville Outlets is no small feat. It involves converting a roofed mall into open-air outlets. “Enclosed malls are challenging for retailers because people would rather go to outdoor outlets,” Wartner says.

Although the outlets will be open to the elements, they will include some covered pedestrian walkways. The overall architectural design will reflect the mountainous nature of the region, adorned with wood and native stone on the interior. 

“We are segmenting one building into eight buildings with an outdoor concourse concept,” Wartner says. “The project is phased into three components: demolition, core and shell, and interiors. The phasing allowed us to create a fast-track schedule.”

Demolition work has required taking the existing roof off the mall, exposing concrete and steel girders. Cranes are removing large steel beams, and tons of steel, copper and scrap metal are being recycled. Special attention has been required to avoid damaging existing portions of the building that are being used in the renovation.

“We also have to make all of the new pieces and parts fit with the existing structure,” Wartner says. “We will find surprises as we demolish, and we will have to make changes as we go. We tried to catch all of the surprises ahead of time so we don’t have to deal with cost increases.” 

Another challenge for the project has been working with several clients that have stayed open during construction, including Belk, Dillard’s and Dollar Tree. The project team has taken steps to ensure that they can continue to operate with as little disruption as possible while the project progresses.

“The retailers bring in their own contractors for build-outs,” Wartner says. “Proper sequencing of our project will allow us to get work done so the tenants can get in and finish the interiors.”

Winter Construction will continue to work with the developer, architect and others to ensure that Asheville Outlets will be open for business in spring 2015. 

“Converting an indoor mall into an outdoor outlet center is a complex undertaking,” Wartner says. “But we are comfortable working on all kinds of retail renovations, especially the unconventional. Our experience allows us to handle the challenges, and we’re already seeing significant progress.” 

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