A Grand Plan in North Texas Begins to Take Shape

Linda Van Hoosen

January 14, 2018

We’ve all heard the saying, “Everything’s bigger in Texas.” So, why not build a large, world-class, one-of-a-kind, mixed-use development in the Lone Star State? Why not, indeed. Olsson Associates is providing civil engineering and landscape architecture design services for Grandscape—a 400-acre project under construction in The Colony, Texas. When finished, Grandscape will have its own city-like feel complete with apartments, a resort hotel, unique restaurants, and an assortment of shops and communal areas.

There is much more to this unique development. It will include a 90-plus acre mixed-use entertainment center, which is currently under construction. This area will feature multiple levels of retail shops, public and private entertainment spaces, and tiered seating and restaurant areas. The center will also include an inviting subterranean retail oasis called, “The Grotto.”

This Grotto space will be an amazing pedestrian area replete with unique cafes, eateries, shops, lush foliage, and meandering walkways.  The center’s main interior courtyard will lead to a large green space  with a stage to host concerts and other events. Nebraska Furniture Mart (now open), Scheels (a 310,000-square-foot retail sporting goods store), a movie theater, and a variety of restaurants  and drink venues are also being constructed. For patrons, it will be more than simply a day of shopping and eating. The center’s unique features will bring them back time and again.

The project involves a dozen teams within Olsson, along with several subconsultants under the firm’s contract. Senior Project Manager Jesse Peckham says the development has morphed quickly into more of a design-build-type project then the traditional design-bid-build.

“It’s as close to a design-build type mentality and team collaboration than any other private project we’ve had in the past,” said Jesse. “It’s the way the ownership team led by the Nebraska Furniture Mart ownership, general contractor VCC, and the design teams are working in partnership on a daily basis to construct on a deliverable time frame while changes are still being incorporated…it’s essentially a design-build project without being called one. With the necessary speed and planning changes required by leasing, the incredible partnership, the ownership, and design teams have developed with the city has been critical to the success of this project. Our design teams have been working very closely with the city staff. Biweekly team meetings on-site have kept all agencies working on the same page.”

Preparation work for the center, such as mass grading and moisture conditioning of the site, is near completion. Construction for the area’s two main garages along with the site utility work is underway. Work on several of the large anchor buildings will begin in the first few months of 2018.

The project’s lead senior landscape architect, Korey Schulz, says a lot of time has been spent on the interior and The Grotto design since the spring of 2017. After permitting is approved, construction will begin this spring in 2018.

Olsson Studio began providing the landscape architectural design for the mixed-use entertainment development center in June of 2016. Since then, Olsson Studio has coordinated continuously with other internal Olsson teams which include civil, structural, traffic, and mechanical electrical. Together with the architecture and ownership teams, the project’s complexity and uniqueness have been brought to life despite its trials.

“One of the challenges to working on this is that there are so many people within Olsson involved in this project because of its size,” said Korey. “Along with weekly full internal team calls, the studio and civil design teams held weekly face-to-face meetings to resolve any design coordination issues. We could go over plans and it really helped build the relationship as a team. We could all understand each other and move through the process a little better.”

Olsson’s project team worked with the building architecture teams, HTH Architects and Merriman Anderson Architects, to create and combine two digital models of the site. Using the joint model, the team created a 3-D detailed video of the plan for the ownership team. The video has been an invaluable tool in the process of leasing the site’s future spaces. It allows potential leasing agents to visualize what the mixed-use entertainment development will look like from above and at ground level to help them make better planning decisions.

Korey says not all design firms can deliver most of the work on a project this size. The complexity, world class expectations, and project speed makes this a one of a kind project.

“It’s important for our clients to know that Olsson is capable of master planning, designing, detailing and constructing large projects like this one,” Korey said. “We’ve got the experience of all facets of that, and we’re providing our clients with information to make good decisions throughout the process.”

“The true key,” according to Jesse, “is the amazing leadership from the ownership team; and very uniquely, the amount of trust and partnership relationship they instilled in the full project team to work with each other to make better and more efficient decisions every day.”