Shopping Spree

May 31, 2005
HONORABLE MENTION: Queens Center, Elmhurst, NY

Today, following a $170-million expansion and modernization, it’s a bright, inviting destination: Before, the Queens Center retail mall in Elmshurst, NY, was dated and standard.

Despite renovations in 1990, including the replacement of an Ohrbach’s department store with JCPenney, the 921,000-square-foot center was showing its age. An archaic design (including insufficient light and antiquated mechanical and life safety/security systems) and the inevitable toll of time diminished both its physical appeal and its operation. However, barring those drawbacks, the Queens Center was - and still is - the only enclosed urban shopping center in the densely populated borough of Queens. That meant a sizeable customer base; retail space was highly desirable, but rarely available.

Renovation of the original space went far beyond a mere facelift. Modernization of the 4-story atrium (including the addition of a 60-foot-diameter octagonal skylight, along with new ceiling fixtures) has resulted in an airy ambience. Reconfiguration of the space permits more fluid pedestrian circulation, while up-to-date finishes create a fresh, timeless look.

Mall expansion encompassed 365,000 square feet of space, providing room for approximately 175 merchants - up from the previous 70. A new 7-story parking structure raises the number of parking spaces by more than 531. On the exterior, the project included EIFS panelized cladding (to replace the existing blue-glazed brick veneer facade), glass-and-aluminum mall entrances, and a decorative 3-story glass curtainwall system with large graphic displays installed above the main entrance. Both inside and out, new and renovated spaces blend so seamlessly that the shopping center - which covers roughly 2 square city blocks - appears and functions as a single coherent structure.

During the course of the project, general contractor Skanska USA Building Inc., Parsippany, NJ, had to face and overcome a series of challenges. Most noteworthy was the need to develop, implement, and coordinate a site logistics plan that would minimize disturbance on mall patrons and the surrounding community. Accordingly, Skanska addressed those concerns through the following steps:

  • To reduce the impact on tenants and mitigate noise, dust, and vibrations, virtually the entire second phase was conducted in two shifts, with the more intrusive work done at night (including material deliveries and steel erection for retail and vehicular bridges).
  • To ensure that commerce kept humming, 300-foot-long, 10-foot-high, and 10-foot-wide tunnels were built to act as temporary corridors that allowed the public to pass between older and newer portions of the mall during construction. Fully equipped with air-conditioning and sprinklers, tunnels were relocated as work was completed in one area and started in another.

Linda K. Monroe ([email protected]) is editorial director at Buildings magazine.

The Modernization Team ■ General Contractor (entry submitter): Skanska USA Building Inc. ■ Owner: The Macerich Co. ■ Project Manager: Whiting Turner Contracting Co. ■ Design Architect: Gilligan and Bubnowski Architects ■ Programming and Concept Designer: Communication Arts ■ Products Used ■ Building Controls: Siemens ■ Ceilings: Armstrong ■ Doors/Storefronts: Long Island Fireproof Door; Viracon; Vistawall ■ Elevators/Escalators: Schindler ■ Floorcoverings: Armstrong; Dal-Tile ■ Hardware: Best; Glynn-Johnson; Schlage ■ HVAC: Bell & Gossett; Trane; York ■ Insulation: Dow ■ Lighting: Winona ■ Paint: Benjamin Moore ■ Plumbing: American Standard ■ Roofing: Johns Manville ■ Structural: Hilti; MAPEI ■ Walls/Partitions: U.S. Gypsum ■ Windows/Glass: Viracon

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