Once a typical southside strip mall, the corner of Abercorn and White Bluff has been transformed into the nation’s first-ever LEED-certified retail shopping area, now known as Abercorn Common.
Short for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design,” LEED certification is the national standard for conservation-oriented or “green” building techniques. Because of the strict requirements involved — such as most materials having to come from within a 500-mile radius to cut down on travel cost and emissions and help promote local markets — LEED-certifying is generally limited to smaller projects.
However, Savannah’s Melaver Inc., which developed Abercorn Common, decided to think big from the beginning. The task was daunting, perhaps no task more so than bringing diverse tenants together under the LEED banner while keeping intact the for-profit nature of the 172,000 square-foot development.
“If you’re new to LEED, I wouldn’t necessarily suggest that the first project you take on be a shopping mall,” laughs Tommy Linstroth, Melaver Inc.’s head of sustainable initiatives.
Linstroth took Connect Savannah for a tour of Abercorn Common a few weeks ago. The site, designed by Ozell Stankus Associates of Atlanta, celebrates its grand opening this April 27 at 3 p.m. The public is invited.
While there’s still a certain amount of construction — particularly involving various sectors of the parking lot — the soft-brown, sleek and gracefully curved central complex still cuts quite a figure amid the otherwise ugly sprawl in the Abercorn/White Bluff corridor.
The main entrance is anchored by an attractive, pedestrian-friendly walking area dominated by a fountain with a pool. Palm trees — so young they’re still held up by wooden supports — dot the parking area, intended to eventually provide natural shade for parked cars.
Abercorn Common tenants include Books-A-Million, Circuit City, F.P. Wortley Jewelers, Grand Harbour Imports, Home Goods, Locos Grill & Pub, McDonald's, Michael's, Oreck Home Care, Panera Bread, Smoothie King, The Riitz Salon and Wild Birds Unlimited.
The shopping center is what is known as LEED Core and Shell certified, meaning the exterior and essential infrastructure are up to LEED standards, but leaseholders aren’t required to have their store interiors to the more-stringent LEED Commercial Interiors standard (However, the Loco’s Grill and Pub at Abercorn Common is an exception, its owners having taken it on themselves to get interior certification).
Melaver Inc. boasts two other local LEED developments: its headquarters on Telfair Square downtown, and the Whitaker Building at State and Whitaker, the first-ever LEED-certified building in Savannah.
As for the newest jewel in Melaver’s LEED crown, Linstroth says Abercorn Common will eventually offer self-guided walking tours of the site to fully explain its history-making eco-friendly features.
“Even if only two out of a hundred people decide to take the tour, that’s OK — it will still add to the overall experience,” he says. “But we still expect that most people will come here simply to go shopping.”
The dreaming’s not done yet. A free-standing outparcel building currently under construction on the Abercorn side will feature a full-vegetative garden covering the entire roof.
“The garden actually has nothing to do with LEED,” admits Linstroth. “We just thought it would be cool to do!”
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