Mall at UTC

Mall at University Town Center big business for Manatee's Key Glass

UNIVERSITY PARK -- Local contractors have had some extra pressure in getting the job done on time for The Mall at University Town Center.

After all, no one wants to be the business that stopped the mall from opening on time -- least of all the local guy.

Key Glass knows that pressure all too well. The Manatee County company had its biggest year to date because of its contract with the new mall, but it's been working seven days a week to make sure it gets its part done well before Thursday's ribbon cutting.

Key Glass, 2312 58th Ave. E., Tallevast, brought in $2.4 million of contract work for various jobs at the Mall at UTC, serving up its biggest year since its 1990 inception.

"It's a cornerstone project for the community," said Justin Burkhart, project manager for Key Glass. "It's a huge scale project. You just want to make sure you're not someone who's going to hold up that day."

The company's work can be seen at the main east and west entrances, in the glass handrail for Macy's, Starbucks, the top curtainwall at Dillard's, an area at Sophie's inside Saks Fifth Avenue and the main glass elevator and glass facades on two passenger elevators.

"Essentially for us, it's like four jobs in one," Burkhart said.

Key Glass's biggest year could have came in 2010 when The Mall at UTC was originally scheduled to open. The company was set to sign a contract in 2008 before the Great Recession put the mall on hold. Since then, Key Glass completed work for Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Lake Erie College of Medicine, Sarasota Police Department, IMG Academy residence halls and Manatee Technical Institute.

During the final month of mall construction, the company spent seven days a week onsite to finish the job, Burkhart said. In all, his staff of eight spent more than 8,500 employee hours working on the mall from April through October. Every day there was a reminder time was ticking -- general contractor DCK Worldwide has a clock in its construction trailer at the mall counting down the days to completion, Burkhart said.

The mall, 140 University Town Center Drive, opens at 10 a.m. Thursday.

Even when the mall opens, Key Glass will be onsite for four days in case there are any cracks or breaks.

What Key Glass does for the mall is order glass to specification -- whether it's hurricane-grade for the exterior or a 9/16-inch laminated glass -- and fabricate the shapes for the mall and store structures, Burkhart said.

Working with glass is already a delicate job and making some pieces for the mall pushed the limits. On top of placing the 65-foot-tall curved glass pavilion together on the main entrance, Key Glass had to custom design and fabricate the plantation-like shutters

that had to be attached to the vertical divisions of the window rather than directly on a building. Workers laid all the pieces out on the ground and got everything in a straight line to figure out how this was all going to work, Burkhart said.

"We had to get custom intrusions made and figure out a way to make these sunshades and making them connect all the way around the building," Burkhart said.

Those shutters were the brainchild of the design team for the mall's developer, Taubman Centers, who wanted ways to help diffuse some of the strong natural light at the mall.

"The big idea was just embrace the Florida sun and bring natural daylight in," said Ron Loch, vice president of planning and design for Taubman.

Those touches with the shutters and special glass used in the pavilion helps keep some of the heat out while providing a unique design to Sarasota.

"We landed on a solution that provided the most lighting, a contemporary look and complemented with a signature fountain and ceremonial entry," said Jeff Boes, director of planning and design for Taubman.

Glass is a huge part of the mall -- exactly 100,720 square feet of structure -- and Key Glass is glad to be part of it. Other contractors completed other areas of the mall, including the 1,100-foot-long vaulted skylight.

From the first glass handrail work done at Macy's to the glass elevator coming together in the past few days, Burkhart is proud of his eight employees split between the field and in the office.

"It's the team here at Key Glass that pulled together that I'm proud of," Burkhart said.

Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.