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SPOTLIGHT ON: Tenant Improvement, Construction, and Remodeling

BY Marianne Wilson

The recent updates to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design were detailed at the SPECS session, “The ADA: 20 Years +1.” The session, part of the Tenant Improvement Construction/Remodeling workshop track, also gave a brief overview of the law and its enforcement.

According to the speaker, more than 200 private ADA lawsuits are filed in U.S. Federal Courts across the United States each month. The suits are filed mainly by disability organizations, disability rights advocates and law firms.

“ADA is a complaint-driven law, and it’s not going away. The firm of William Charouhis has filed more than 450 ADA Title I and III cases in Florida, including three Class Action ADA suits,” said Joan Stein, president and CEO, Accessibility Development Associates, Pittsburgh.

The ADA is a civil rights law and, as such, it is enforced by the Department of Justice. It’s important that retailers understand their risk with regard to the ADA, according to Stein.

“Penalties, which are paid to the U.S. Department of Justice, can start at $55,000 for the first violation, and then $110,000 for each subsequent violations,” she explained.

Stein emphasized that the ADA always supersedes state or local building codes.

“Another important point to keep in mind is that building codes can be negotiated,” Stein said. “But there is no negotiating civil rights.”

DIFFERENCES: Stein explained that the new regulations not only update the federal requirements based on advances in technology and lessons learned since the 1991 standards were first established, but also attempt to make ADA more consistent with building codes.

In addition, they clarify or expand policies on things such as effective communication, service animals, and motorized wheelchairs and mobility devices.

One of the most important things to remember about the new 2012 standards is that dimensions not stated as a “maximum” or “minimum” is absolute. Construction tolerances, Stein added, are gone.

Important technical differences include the following:

• Height reach ranges: Under the 1991 standards, reach ranges allowed for a maximum of 54 ins. above the finished floor for a side approach and a maximum of 48 ins. above the finished floor for a front approach. Under the 2010 standards, however, it is 48 ins. maximum for either front or side.

• Parking: One in every six accessible parking spaces must now be van-accessible.

• Handrails: These are required even with other means of access.

• Toilet centerlines: Under the old standard, the toilet centerlines — the space from the sidewall to the center of the toilet — was an absolute 18 ins. Under the 2010 standards, it is a range of 16 ins. to 18 ins. for a toilet in a standard, accessible stall.

• Clear-floor-space requirements for water closets not located in stalls increased.

The 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design can be downloaded from the DOJ website at ada.gov.

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SPOTLIGHT ON: Planning & Design

BY Connie Robbins Gentry

Building collaborative relationships between design visionaries and construction teams was the fundamental theme underscoring the tips for success shared in the SPECS Planning & Design workshop session “Going from Prototype to Reality, Without Losing the Sizzle.”

The logical first step, suggested Brady Harding, VP project architecture, Interbrand Design Forum, Dayton, Ohio, is to test design through a concept store, ideally staged in close proximity to the retail headquarters, then follow with a tiered rollout of flagship stores in major MSAs, mainstream models in key secondary markets and modest design refreshers in tertiary markets.

Throughout the process, the critical challenges are staying on task, on budget, on time. To do this without “stifling creativity,” observed Matt Kobylski, director of real estate and construction at the fast-casual dining chain Pollo Campero, requires hands-on management and attention to details.

“Stay away from volatile [building] materials with cost fluctuations or [questionable] availability,” Kobylski cautioned.

Few retailers have mastered prototype execution as well as Disney Store, where design is all about the brand. Jonathan D. Endicott, VP global store design and construction at Disney Store USA, rounded out the SPECS presentation by outlining practices that have contributed to his company’s success, including:

• Define what goes on the priority list and what goes off. For Disney, brand is priority No. 1, followed by schedule and cost.

• Build a fully operating “mock” store and learn from its problems.

• Develop a comprehensive tool kit of everything required to meet the overall schedule.

• Commit to the “big” idea and evangelize the concept so everyone knows what is important and why.

• Plan for chaos, manage to order, and fail on paper first, not in construction.

• Follow the 80/20 rule: 80% of stores will roll out virtually on autopilot; focus on the 20% that have site anomalies.

Pop-up stores: The unique challenges of designing and building pop-up stores were addressed in the SPECS Planning & Design session, “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow.”

Chain Store Age contributing editor Connie Gentry opened the discussion by explaining that the definition of pop-up retailing embraces stores that are open for hours, days, weeks or months — basically any time frame less than one year. The newest craze, referred to as “Flash Retail,” involves stores that are open for one to 24 hours and are usually promotion-driven concepts. Pop-up stores that last days to weeks in duration are typically intended to engage consumers, create brand buzz, test markets or introduce new products.

The most recognizable format in the pop-up genre, seasonal stores, are more closely aligned with traditional retail, where the primary objective is simply to sell merchandise. Halloween stores are classic seasonal concepts and Bob Schank, president of Masquerade, Inc., presented lessons learned over the 29 years that his company has been opening Halloween Adventure stores throughout Northeast and Mid-Atlantic markets.

“Controlling expenses is critical in the pop-up business because there is no time or margin for error; you have to maximize sales every day,” Schank advised. To help keep the rollout as efficient as possible, the flow and adjacencies are basically the same across all Halloween Adventure stores, even though the formats and store footprints may vary dramatically, from inline shopping center spaces, to street-front retailing and, in some unique cases, even large big-box formats.

Among Schank’s recommendations are to hang signs in the windows as soon as possible after the sites are selected to begin to create awareness even before the store opens. And to minimize costly liabilities, he advised conducting a formal walk-through of the space prior to taking possession. The walk-though should include recording any pre-existing facility issues in photos and on a sign-off sheet so the landlord cannot hold the pop-up tenant accountable for prior damage.

Similarly, obtain official meter readings for utilities on the day of occupancy and the day of termination to ensure accurate billings, Schank recommended.

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SPOTLIGHT ON: Ground-Up Construction/Remodeling

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Keeping a store open during a remodel versus closing it until the work is completed was the theme of the SPECS session, “Open Store Remodels: Best Practices for Maintaining the Customer Experience and the Focus on Sales.” The session was part of the Ground-Up Construction and Remodeling workshop track.

Although the speakers had experience with both methodologies, they focused more on ways to keep the store open during the process.

“There’s no question that the majority of the work we have done over the past year has been remodels,” said Matt Schimenti, president and CEO of Schimenti Construction Co., Ridgefield, Conn., who moderated the discussion. “And the intent of this session is to combine the perspectives of the contractor, the people in the field and the retailers to provide a full and comprehensive picture of the remodeling process.”

The first decision, agreed all of the panelists, is to decide if you are going to close down the store and execute an expedited rehab, or keep the store open and try to minimize customer and staff disruption.

“Over the last five years, our work has been 100% remodeling,” said Randy Pannell, director, construction, Saks Fifth Avenue, Merritt Island, Fla. He added that the department store retailer employed a variety of tactics, from doing open/occupied remodels, entire-store remodels and rehabbing isolated areas.

“The approach determines the process,” Pannell said.

The panelists agreed that there should be several clear objectives during a remodel: to maintain a productive relationship with the store staff, to keep customers comfortable and to make the least impact possible on sales.

“It all starts with planning,” Pannell said. “The phasing is most important, as it affects the final merchandising.”

Omar Carcamo, senior construction manager, southeast region, Gap Inc., agreed.

“That’s true in a small box like ours as well,” he said. “We have to try to make it easier for everyone involved — the teams have to work together to accommodate each other in a restricted space. In other words, everyone has to get their jobs done regardless of what is happening around them.”

According to John Colonnese, project executive with Schimenti Construction, subtlety during an open-store remodel can’t be overdone.

“The remodel process should be as invisible as possible,” he advised. “The success of the planning is what makes the process seamless and invisible.”

Because so many of the session attendees were retailers and restaurateurs responsible for their own remodels, the panelists opened the floor to suggestions and questions from the audience. When polled, the majority of the attendees indicated that they keep their stores and units at least partially open during a remodel, and they unanimously go into a remodel with a predetermined schedule, beginning with a kickoff meeting at the pre-construction phase.

(One exception in the audience was a representative from Denny’s restaurants, who said the chain only completes closed-store remodels, as it is against the company’s policy to execute a remodel while a unit is open.)

When one attendee asked how to execute an occupied remodel versus a closed remodel, Gap’s Carcamo suggested a temporary space as a solution. >

“Temp stores can offer a potentially viable alternative to both types of remodels,” he explained. “You are able to close the space being remodeled but still remain open for business.”

While that solution might not be doable for a lot of retailers, there are plenty of other strategies that are. Saks, for instance, does multi-phased renovations, and the barricades become part of the building itself. The retailer has made it a practice to dress its barricades with color and graphics.

“It’s about protecting the customer experience,” Saks’ Pannell said.

Gap counts flexibility as key to keeping its process moving and its customers happy.

“Everyone has to understand the need for flexibility,” Carcamo said. “All teams and crews may have to adjust work schedules. There simply is no exact science when it comes to the operational interaction during a remodel.”

Saks employs block scheduling to keep operations moving smoothly.

“We know, in weeks, what it’s going to take to get a project completed,” Pannell said. “Our schedules are fairly fluid. Our superintendent meets with the store manager every day. We have started using consolidated warehousing, sending everything in ahead of time, which makes it a cleaner process.”

The panel participants and attendees concurred that another hot button during an open-store remodel is getting the marketing department involved in the process from the outset. Retail marketers can be charged with creating the signage that is used in the remodel and with keeping the brand image intact when it is being tested the most.

“You have to deal with it on the front end, and be proactive, not reactive,” Pannell advised. “We actually do that at store level, in that we have marketing personnel at each store. We go way beyond ‘pardon our dust.’ ”

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