David Puretz is a California licensed architect with over 40 years of experience in the retail design industry. A graduate of UC Berkeley School of Architecture, he has been involved in the planning, design and construction of virtually every type of retail environment from kiosks to big-box stores, from price point and outlet venues to high-end specialty stores. Prior work experience includes Bullock’s Store Planning, Cole Martinez Curtis, FRCH Worldwide, Fitzpatrick Design Group, GFBA Architects, and his own consultancy and practice as DMP Architects in Sherman Oaks, California. David’s core clientele includes Macy’s, Neiman Marcus and Westfield properties where he is Architect of Record for more than 220 successful projects. David enjoys songwriting, musical theater and beach volleyball when he is not working.
MALL CONSTRUCTION PRACTICES
BEST OF THE BEST
My how things have changed over the years.
In a diﬀerent era, I was working for Bullock’s Depart- ment Stores in their Store Planning Department. We were work- ing on the opening of their new store at the Fashion Show in Las Vegas and part of our responsibilities were to set up the store in anticipation of its grand opening. This meant positioning all of the racks and ﬁxtures, positioning the wall hardware, adjusting the lighting throughout so as to provide the accents where required. Meanwhile, the GC and his subcontractors were applying ﬁnish- ing touches and punch-list items throughout the store.
Las Vegas was in a big building boom at the time and good labor was diﬃcult to ﬁnd. Every yahoo in the country came to Las Vegas knowing that jobs were plentiful. The upshot was a rash of incompetent, unprofessional boorish louts who were hired out of the union halls without any genuine prior skills in malls and department stores. In this case, there was a rash of drywallers and tapers whose lack of skills was only surpassed by their lack of manners.
As I peddled around the store adjusting lights and ﬁx- tures, I would hear two or three of these crass individuals openly harassing the predominantly gay display crew. The display peo- ple made the apparel, home goods, and accessory merchandise presentation sparkle. The drywallers would yell out horriﬁc, ob- scene remarks as each display person walked by, and then smirk amongst themselves, much as construction workers across the nation would do cat-calls at every passing young lady at big con- struction sites.
After two or three days, I had heard enough and reported
the three principal culprits to my boss, the head of construction for Bullock’s. He took the issue to the GC the next day with the imperative that the drywall subcontractor get rid of the boors im- mediately, which he did and the harassment ceased. I believe that every other subcontractor was given the same warning. It struck me afterward that these idiots were literally biting the hand that fed them.
Today, happily, we do not see too many of these types of personnel issues. Contractors working in the mall specialty stores and department stores, generally come from the cream of the crop. The expectations of the national stores is that the GC’s doing their work hire only the best of the sub-contractors, i.e. skilled crafts- men who go about their work in a professional manner, and are consistently polite in their interactions with store personnel or mall personnel.
Whether the mall is in a union domain or not, the expectations these days are that each GC and all of the sub-contractors observe all of the mall hour construction rules, security measures, sound regulations, parking regulations, and without mention, de- cent, civil interaction with the store personnel and the public. To- day’s subcontractors are a much more ethnically and gender ho- mogenized group including many women doing the jobs that were once gender restricted. Today, we see women at construction sites doing the superintending tasks as well as all of the trades.
Construction sites in malls today start with solid barri- cades at the storefront with locked access. Public access tempo- rary tunnels for emergency exits come with battery back-up lights and often with their own temporary sprinklers. Inside of large stores, remodel projects have ﬂoor to ceiling visqueen barriers with taped, secured openings. Interaction with the store personnel and the public is held to a minimum. Hours are heavily regulated, extreme noises such as shot pins and jack-hammers are always done before or after store hours.
Project superintendents are responsible for the conduct and safety of all of their crews as well as their sub-contractors. In the case of large mall expansions, developers have on-site staﬀ for the sole purpose of monitoring the safety of the construction workers. Hard hats, safety goggles, hard-toe boots or shoes, or- ange or yellow vests, long sleeve shirts, and hearing protection (as required) are closely watched by the safety superintendents under contract to the developers. Workers failing to observe the safety rules are dismissed from the site until they show compliance with all of the safety regulations. And, more importantly, insubordina- tion or inappropriate language is cause for immediate dismissal. Developers and their general contractors have a lot at stake and are loathe to face civil lawsuits because of the short sightedness of their sub-contractors. The business of development and construc- tion today has become a much more professional and civil envi- ronment since the days of the opening of Bullock’s at the Fashion Show in Las Vegas.