Chico’s National Store Support Center
A fashionable company deserves a chic, stylish building, which was the idea behind the development of the Chico’s National Store Support Center (NSSC) in Fort Myers, Fla. In 2012 the Florida-based women’s specialty retailer decided to expand its campus after record-breaking quarterly sales from its four brands – White House, Black Market, Soma Intimates and Boston Proper – as well as the addition of 100 new stores across the U.S.
NSSC will house Chico’s human resources, technology, e-commerce, store design and construction departments, creating approximately 150 new jobs with the capacity of more than 450 jobs. Balfour Beatty (BB), the nation’s fourth-largest commercial contractor, tackled the $21 million Class A 146,000-square-foot office space, breaking ground on the 60-acre campus in early 2012.
Jaime Wray, project manager for BB, joined the industry-leading company right out of college. After 17 years with BB, Wray understands the importance of cooperation amongst all trades, as well as how the company’s collaborative approach results in success.
“We approach projects as a team, including our subcontractors,” Wray says. “Ultimately, everyone is there to deliver the same product at the end of the day. Streamlining problems is our job, but when you have a team willing to work through issues it’s a much easier process.”
BB assembled a team of local subcontractors considered to be hometown favorites for the project. “NSSC is just one of many projects on the massive Chico’s campus,” explains Wray. “It’s a growing company with a growing Fort Myers location, so many of the subcontractors we used had worked on previous projects on the same site. Partnering with local guys has worked out really well.”
Fittingly Fashionable Design
As construction manager at risk under the conventional AIA setup, BB collaborated with a structural core architect for the building envelope, stairwells and bathrooms, as well as a separate tenant improvement architect; the goal was to create a unique space reflecting the chic style and persona of Chico’s. “As far as basic design, the building is 146,000 square feet of tilt-up construction with conventional composite decks,” details Wray. “It has structural glazed windows and curtain walls at the atrium entrances.”
NSSC also boasts a 117-seat auditorium, a kitchen and prep area, a dining hall café and various inspirational lounges. “It’s a very neat building,” Wray continues. “NSSC is the only multistory building on the Chico’s campus; it’s been an interesting development.”
To give NSSC a contemporary look, BB partnered with designers to develop a natural looking finish with pops of color. “The exterior is 90 percent natural finish concrete, creating a sleek, modern look,” says Wray. “We also added bright orange and green to the building’s stair towers. It’s a very distinguished looking structure.”
A Milestone Grand Opening
Chico’s held the grand opening of NSSC in February 2013 after a rapid 13-month development. “Originally we’d estimated about 14 months, but figured we could complete the project in 12,” reveals Wray. “Unfortunately, we ended up doing a lot of design changes and program development on the fly. We had close to 1,600 design documents, so I think 13 months is reasonable.”
The tilt-up construction and concrete façade created another challenge for BB. “We were dealing with an unfinished, unconventional exterior,” notes Wray. “It was protected with a clear sealant, but that’s it; typically, there’s at least a textured coating or paint involved. We worked with our partners at Woodland and we have to give them props, because it was not an easy finish.” Despite some design changes and a fast-paced schedule, Wray and his team completed NSSC in approximately 140,000 man-hours without a single LTA.
NSSC was such a success that the building is now registered for certification under the Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC). The FGBC encourages building owners to adopt green and sustainable strategies during design and construction, which BB delivered.
At the end of the day, Wray attributes BB‘s expert ability to coordinate various trades and team spirit as two of the most important factors in completing the NSSC project. “It’s more than hammers, concrete and steel,” he says. “Our job is about people and service. We represented the needs of Chico’s, backing their design and ideas throughout the process.”
As the one of the largest contractors in the U.S., BB has the project management skills to deliver challenging projects on a tight schedule. Additionally, Balfour Beatty designs one-of-a-kind buildings that enhance the surrounding area and community, ensuring Chico’s National Store Support Center will bring jobs and provide a space with room to grow for the expanding national retailer.
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