Concrete Masonry Designs: Uptown Gig Harbor

Uptown Gig Harbor was always meant to be more than an ordinary shopping center. The retail project includes 165,000 square feet of shopping space configured in 14 structures that house retail stores, restaurants, and a 2,500 seat cinema. Shoppers at Uptown Gig Harbor enjoy pedestrian walkways, outdoor seating, lush landscaping and water features that offer a comfortable respite from the big box retail of the last decade.

CM Designs: Uptown Gig Harbor

The design/build team of Hansen, Hansen & Johnson Architects and HHJ Construction Inc., transformed a wooded, 30-acre site into a modern shopping center that is, in essence, an “anti-mall.” Uptown Gig Harbor deliberately avoids the predictable “Disneyland” look, says architect Robert H. Kleven, AIA, by creating more of a lifestyle commercial center “built with a tapestry of unique concrete masonry structures that allow businesses like Panera Bread, Chico’s, and Borders to each retain their own distinct identity, while retaining the unity of the entire project.”

“This project is overwhelmingly built with concrete masonry,” says Kleven. “We gave the exterior of these buildings their own unique identity by using a variety of CMU, including split-face, ground-face, full block and half-high block. We also used a variety of stacking techniques—some double stacked and some aligned.” This variety is all part of the design goal to give the development a “constructed over time” look—similar to a community that retains a unique richness as it expands through the years—which helps add an authenticity to these commercial structures. “What we didn’t want was to have one humongous parking lot surrounded by retail structures that all look alike. Instead we wanted to create an understated, elegant façade with a feeling of permanence, and CMU does all of that,” Kleven states.

“We chose concrete masonry because it is very easy to work with and it gave us that sense of quality and permanence that we were looking for,” asserts Mr. Kleven.

“We could have designed these structures with steel or wood stud construction with a veneer overlay, or we could go with CMU. When we compared the cost between those two options, the concrete masonry was the clear winner.”

The project developer, John Hogan, managing partner, Gateway Capital LLC agrees, “The use of concrete masonry allowed us to use a common, traditional construction source, and by varying the type of CMU, we achieved a ‘built over time’ look, which is very hard to create with other common materials.”

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