New owner of the Prime Outlets retail store David Lichtenstein had stated that there would be changes to the stores when he came aboard in 2003. On a trip to Venice's Piazza San Marco, he was absolutely floored by the landscape of the Italian city. Ambitious to duplicate the look of the area also known as St. Mark's Square, he set his focus on the Texas branch of his stores. He even set out to include the gondola rides. Prime Retail Outlet's vision for this project has redefined what an outlet mall should be and raised the bar for retail centers across the country.
Small and important detailsFrom the top of the hard GRFC column covers (10 foot AFF +/-) the entire project is EIFS, utilizing similar installation methods as used in Las Vegas (think of the Venetian). The details were machined and in some cases hand carved for the final look. There are bell ringers and a 12-foot bell, 26 individual 6-foot statues, balustrade rails, medallions, figurines, balconies, shutters, columns, posts, caps and arches that were all coordinated to the intention of the drawings. The various figurines and statues required complex robotic machines for the cutting.
To duplicate all the ornate details of the Italian city, architect firm Carter Burgess worked with Johnson County Foam to brainstorm and finally create at least 120 types of moldings.
"My wife and I started this company as a hobby, 18 years ago out of our garage," says Lewis. "We now have 30 employees, 50,000 square feet of manufacturing space on five acres of land, and it's still a hobby.
In regards to the statues, Johnson County Foam was given three different miniature replicas of statues. Each of these replicas (roughly 21⁄2 feet tall) were shot from 20 different angles using a 3-D laser scanner. From there the fine details were hand carved into the foam. Once the model file is saved in the computer it can be scaled to almost any size and duplicated quickly. New technology has made detailed production such as this possible.
After the "blanks" (the models made of foam) have been created from the software and the sculptors have made their finishing touches, EIFS is applied to the statues. Because these are outside and exposed to the elements, the statues were meshed and basecoated at least twice, sometimes three times for durability.
The bigger pictureOn a larger scope of the job, F.L. Crane and Sons was contracted to do the metal stud framing, drywall, acoustical ceiling systems, EIFS, special shapes, scaffolding, doors frames and hardware, rough carpentry and FRP. The original planning and budgeting began in March with substantial completion by October. The company added more than 165,000 square feet of retail outlet store space.
"On the very front page of Carter Burgess plans, the word ‘intent' is written," recalls Ron Molleur, vice president of F. L. Crane's Texas division. "From a contractors point of view, this is not a good thing. ‘How do I bid intent? Who is to make the final decision? What ends up out there? Are they the same?' That word ‘intent' made this job a very interesting job, because it took the whole team assembled to make that intent work. Minor details became major obstacles to overcome-but the budgets had been set and the timetable was not going to change. It had to get done."
"We utilized man lifts, boom lifts, tube scaffolding, rolling scaffolding, as well as our own tower scaffolding," says Molleur. "We had to scaffold a 150-foot free-standing tower all the way up, including the roof section."
He talks of days turning into nights, with the construction crew working crunch-time to get the project done on schedule. Due to the efforts of White Construction and all the suppliers involved, the strenuous deadlines were met. Dryvit's sales personnel had to make visits to the site to advise and make sure exact color matches were achieved.
All of this "art" has paid off: Nestled between Interstate 35 between San Antonio and Austin, the San Marcos Prime Outlets retail mall has people taking the four-hour drive from Dallas just to shop; the Dallas Morning News reported that a quarter of the shoppers are coming from Mexico. To date, the job won the ABC's "Excellence in Construction" award and the job has been profiled in several publications since its opening just before the holiday season began.
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Credits for Prime Outlet, San MarcosManufacturers/Products Used:
- USG Sheetrock and acoustical ceiling systems
- Dietrich Metal Framing
- Georgia-Pacific DensGlass Gold
- Dryvit (including "E" Finishes, Tuscan Glaze and related Outsulation materials)
- Hilti products, including strut, fasteners and fire caulk
- Fraco Scaffolding
Distributors and Suppliers:
- Johnson County Foam supplied EIFS shapes and carvings
- PlastrGlas Inc. for all GFRC products
- Insulation Supply
- Calply Materials for Dryvit