- Associated Press - Monday, April 28, 2014

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - If you have ever completed a major home improvement project, you know that it takes a lot less time to remove old flooring than it does to lay new tile.

But some University Park Mall shoppers might be surprised to hear that it will take contractors every bit of the next five-plus months to complete the multimillion-dollar renovation, despite the progress that has been made.

Just 11 weeks into the project, crews already have torn out almost every square inch of worn flooring across the Mishawaka regional shopping center.

In the food court, where the majority of activity is currently centered, the columns have been stripped, restroom fixtures removed and outdated decor eliminated.

After the food court is finished in May, why do contractors still need so much time to complete the project?

The difference between renovating a room or two in your house and updating a 1 million-square-foot mall is that University Park Mall will remain open to shoppers throughout the project.

At home, you can work whenever you want, really, and shut the door to the room that is being renovated.

At a shopping mall, workers in five trades — electrical, plumbing, floor demolition, tile installation and carpentry — cannot start until the last shopper leaves and the doors are locked at 9 p.m.

Then it reopens bright and early the next day.

“They usually take about two hours to set up and have about five hours to work, and then they spend their last hour cleaning up,” mall manager Ryan Ginty tells the South Bend Tribune (http://bit.ly/1j86d7g ). “Working inside a mall, they’ve had to do everything they can to protect the retailers during the tile demolition, which is almost complete.”

As contractors move across the shopping center, they have to cover each storefront with plastic and painstakingly seal any gap between window facades to keep any dust from entering the space, Ginty says.

In the food court, the main area of concentration right now, dust protectants located above each tenant space are unrolled at night to shield the restaurants.

Twenty or more workers are completing a number of tasks, from running conduit to new lights, installing restroom fixtures, building new bar table frames and installing acoustic paneling that will absorb sound.

Shoppers entering the food court are noticing the brand-new cream-colored tile that has been laid during the last week between Jos. A. Banks and American Mattress stores. The tile work will slowly progress through the food court and across the shopping center.

Wood treatments will wrap around the food court columns and accent lighting will illuminate them in the weeks ahead.

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