Knowledge

The Opportunity of the Big Box Store

Bruce Yoder

It’s always unfortunate to see any business close, but in the case of big box store closings, we can find new opportunity for redevelopment when you have an open mind and creative eye. BVH recently helped Citylight Church in Omaha envision just such an opportunity.   

Citylight needed big, open spaces, and a former grocery store in the Oakview Mall in Omaha provided the perfect fit. The former big box store has minimal columns to plan around for those needed spaces, and the large footprint allowed us to build an 8,000 SF second level for future expansion space.

And that’s not to say the space didn’t come without design challenges. The original design lacked daylight, as with many big box stores the space was designed without any windows except at the original entrance, and the only other openings are the original emergency exit doors, which meant we needed to figure out where we could place openings in the existing exterior to get daylight to as many occupied spaces as possible, as well as views out. The before and after is a dramatic difference!

Additionally, in a situation like an old grocery store, nothing existing was seen as an original feature that had to stay. This allowed us to work with the client to rethink the main entrance to work better for their use. It also allowed us to provide the other types of spaces they needed, like large open spaces divided with furniture solutions also to allow for low cost flexibility in the future when we aren’t putting up as many permanent walls.

Sometimes these big box stores also suffer from inadequate infrastructure. Even though there may be utilities to the building they are not always up to par for the new use (fire sprinklers, power, water, sewer). Existing mechanical systems, for example, usually need full replacement, due to not only their age but also because conference rooms, lounges, and offices have different needs compared to the previous open big box store concepts. We also have to bring the buildings up to meet current building codes, which means looking at the original construction and the proposed new use to see what changes we need to make.

The final project turned out beautifully, and our clients have happily reported that the space is a success. We are fortunate to work with clients like Citylight who have the imagination and vision to carry forward with spaces like these and to be bold. And that’s what we are here for too: we are to help every step of the way, from site selection to final design, helping our clients make informed decisions.