Excavation work begins on site of future shopping center

Piles of excavated dirt stand up to a hundred feet high on the site of the future SoNo Collection off West Avenue and Interstate 95.

Daniel T. Adams, senior director with Chicago-based mall developer General Growth Properties, estimates that a third of the 60,000 cubic yards of earth that must be excavated to create space for the future shopping mall has been removed.

“We’re happy to be started with the site excavation and remediation and looking to get into the main construction as quickly as we can,” said Adams, standing off Putnam Avenue on Wednesday afternoon. “We would hope to start (construction) by August. We’re still on target for (opening in) October 2019. I think you’ll see an increasing amount of activity. It always takes a while to get out of the ground, but once we get going vertical, you’ll see a lot more activity on the site.”

On Wednesday afternoon, dozen of construction workers overseen by general contractor VCC/KBE continued excavation work on the dozen-acre development site. AMEC Carting and O&G Industries, both local companies, were among the subcontractors busy at work.

On the south parcel — where a Bloomingdale’s store will rise — AMEC excavators dumped earth into a huge machine that sorted out rocks.

Adams said some of the excavated earth is being removed off site to Stamford, New York state and other locations, while the remainder will be reused on the site.

As excavation works continues, GGP is gearing up to lay down the concrete foundation and begin building the nearly million-square-foot regional shopping center.

GGP recently obtained superstructure permits to allow vertical construction to start. The mall developer paid the city’s Building Department nearly $1.68 million for the permits — one for the north, the other for the south parcel of the development site, which is bisected by North Water Street near West Avenue.

The approved site plan for The SoNo Collection calls for 728,000 square feet of retail space, including anchor stores Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s, as well as 80 to 100 smaller retailers and public realm space.

GGP received Common Council approval last month to remove a 152-room hotel, which it deems economically unfeasible, from the plan in exchange for a $3.5 million payment to the city.

In early May, GGP obtained from the city a $348,000 foundation permit to undertake the excavation work.

Adams predicted that the frame and full height of The SoNo Collection will be visible by July 2018.

“You’ll see the frame itself within a year and the garage structure built,” Adams said. “The outline of the building and you’ll probably in a year see the exterior skin.”

GGP has projected that The SoNo Collection will result in 2,220 full-time construction jobs and 2,485 retail jobs once the mall is open.