EMJ Leads Construction Work on Hamilton Place Mall Renovation

Hamilton Place Mall, Chattanooga, TN (1987)


In 1968, CBL Properties was EMJ Construction’s first client. In 1987, we were proud to help the company construct Chattanooga’s Hamilton Place Mall. Today, we’re  honored to lead the construction work on CBL’s renovation of this local landmark. The Chattanooga Times Free Press toured the mall and sat down with Stephen Lebovitz, CEO of CBL Properties, who shared the following detailed progress of the mall:

New mall development is focused on offering experiences and services over the things shoppers can carry out of a store, with restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues playing a key role.

Thirty years after Hamilton Place mall opened, the age of the mega-mall anchored by department stores and surrounded by ring roads is at an end, Lebovitz said. The redevelopment of the space around Sears will have an outdoor focus, favoring sidewalks, lighting and landscaping over stark expanses of asphalt.

Multiple businesses will fill the 145,000 square feet that once housed Sears, which is 65%-70% leased. Next door, the new Aloft expected to open in early 2021 will have a rooftop bar and a Mean Mug coffeehouse on the ground floor.

Mitch Patel, president and CEO of Vision Hospitality Group, expects the hotel to become a draw for locals as well as out-of-town guests.

“It isn’t downtown or the river, but it is a pretty nice view when you get 75 or 80 feet in the air,” he said during a tour of the site on Tuesday. Reinvention is a challenging process, but it’s one that comes with significant potential, Lebovitz said.

More than 40 anchor stores in the CBL portfolio of properties have closed, but their replacements will move the properties and the company in a stronger direction, he said.

“CBL is an innovative retail real-estate company, developing some of the finest retail shopping centers in the U.S.,” said Chas Torrence, EVP, EMJ Construction. “EMJ had the privilege of helping CBL construct the Hamilton Place Mall in 1987. Working on this renovation project feels like we’ve come full circle. We’re excited to see it remain a hallmark of our community for generations to come.”

Read the full story or learn more about The Hamilton Place Mall.

Chattanooga Times Free Press photo by Erin O. Smith / Construction is underway across from CBL Headquarters at Hamilton Place mall in front of what was formerly Sears Thursday, January 9, 2020, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.


Chattanooga Times Free Press photo by C.B. Schmelter / Work continues inside an unleased space at Hamilton Place Mall on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Anchoring the renovated spaces are Dick’s Sporting Goods and Dave & Buster’s. The Dick’s Sporting Goods and Dave & Buster’s are both scheduled to open in March.


EMJ Employees Serve Chattanooga Community Kitchen

For the eighth straight year, EMJ hosted a Christmas party for the clients and employees of the Chattanooga Community Kitchen .

The kitchen offers a variety of services to its clients. Through all of the assistance offered, it seeks to satisfy the spiritual and physical hunger of people in Chattanooga. There are no fees or requirements for receiving the Kitchen’s services; instead, they are offered out of love and compassion.

EMJ partners with the Kitchen because it allows employees to support a great cause through service. This year EMJ employees raffled gift baskets to raise money to cover the cost.

On the day of the event, employees took shifts decorating the Kitchen, cooking and serving meals, and making phone calls to ask for donations for the organization. The team prepared and served more than 750 meals, which set a new record.

The Community Kitchen relies on volunteer support to accomplish its mission. Groups and individual volunteers are needed year-round. You may sign up to volunteer here, or by emailing volunteer@homelesschattanooga.org.



Fitness Challenge Produces Healthy Lifestyles

At EMJ, we are more than the work we do. We value our people, above all else, and strive to invest in our people and work together effectively as one team.

There are many ways to do that, including friendly office team competition. This, together with the spirit of promoting both healthy competition and lifestyles, is how the People Department created the 2019 Fitness Challenge.

The Fitness Challenge of 2019 was a 3-month challenge that ran January 14 – April 15. EMJ gave a $500 cash prize for both the winning team and each male and female top performer, all based on percentage of weight lost. There were also individual and team prizes for exercise minutes.

While the challenge was definitely a success in promoting healthy lifestyles and building teamwork, it was also the beginning of an incredible fitness journey for some, especially the Dallas Office female winner, Suzanna Trent.

In addition to crushing her competition and helping her team place 3rd, she transformed her lifestyle, allowing her to continue to lose weight even several months after the competition had ended.

We sat down with Suzanna to discuss the details of her motivation, progress, and goals thus far in this journey, which are found in the following Q&A.

What was your motivation for joining the EMJ Fitness Challenge this past year?

Peer pressure. Matt Connors kept trying to convince me to do it. Eventually a few of my co-workers said they would sign up if I did, so I finally gave in. There were several times over the following Christmas break that I debated e-mailing in to say I’d changed my mind, but I didn’t want to go back on my word. Then, once the teams were assigned, I knew I couldn’t let my team down. I was determined to pull my weight — or in this case, lose it.

A few weeks into the challenge, during a meeting, the stats of the leader board were being read and I was starting to move up in the rankings. Nicole Gaiser, our VP of People, commented that she thought she had first place in the bag, but that I was now giving her a run for her money. Beating her then became my new motivation! Once the challenge was over though, I felt so great that I wanted to keep going.

What has been your overall progress?

As of this morning, I have lost 120lbs. and 10 pant sizes! I initially weighed in at 280lbs and I am now down to 160lbs.

How have you gone about losing the weight?

I started a WeightWatchers program and eat a lot of “zero point” foods like chicken, fish, and all sorts of fruits and vegetables. I also began to meal plan and prep my meals and snacks ahead of time –grapes are my go-to snack, I love me some fruit!

I cut out anything with added sugar as well, but I allow myself to splurge every now and then on some cookies and cream ice cream. The key has been getting right back on track. I also started walking eight minutes a day. It was so hard at first just to walk for a few minutes, but I slowly built up my endurance over time. Now, I am jogging for at least an hour every day!

Did you have any goals when you started the Fitness Challenge? Any long-term goals for yourself now?

My only goal when I started the challenge was not to let my team down. Now, my goal is to weigh in at 150lbs on the one-year mark, January 14, 2020. After that, I just want to maintain a healthy weight and continue living a healthy lifestyle. I have never felt better than I do now! I have had so many cheerleaders who have encouraged me along the way, and I am so thankful for the support of my EMJ family!

What would you say to people who are struggling with their weight and motivation?

Make small changes, like parking farther away from work, the grocery store, when running errands, etc. Take the stairs; even if it is one flight a day, it all adds up. Make small weight loss goals. Take baby steps and never look too far ahead.

Be proud when you meet your goals. If you don’t meet your goals (and there will be times you fall short) don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s okay to splurge every now and then, but get right back on the wagon after you do. Know that you are worth every part of this journey and love yourself through it! Last but not least, remember that “healthy” is a goal, not a number. Every bit you are doing matters, and you are good enough!

“We had no idea how much buy-in or what the lasting impact would be when we initially introduced the fitness challenge. It was fun to see the camaraderie and friendly banter amongst co-workers throughout the duration of the challenge. Between both the Dallas and Chattanooga offices we had over 1,000lbs lost and 225,325 exercise minutes logged, so we are excited to see the how the bar will be raised in the 2020 Fitness Challenge,” says Nicole Gaiser, our Vice President of People.

EMJ is planning a second annual fitness challenge. Suzanna hasn’t decided if she’s going to participate, but you can bet she’ll be there cheering her fellow employees on, the EMJ way.

Suzanna (before)
Suzanna (after)

7 Winter and Cold Weather Tips for Construction Workers

Since humans began building, we have been at war with winter. In construction, one key to winning is planning how to continue moving forward without losing ground.

Since humans began building, we have been at war with winter. In construction, one key to winning is planning how to continue moving forward without losing ground. The following items are just a few things to consider in the coming months:

Use in-ground heating. Frozen subgrade in the winter can lead to damaged slabs, foundations, pools, and retaining walls in the spring. Moisture becomes trapped above the frost line, making compaction efforts extremely difficult. Once the moisture thaws in the spring, the ground becomes less compacted and more plastic, causing settlement, and in some cases, catastrophic failure, especially at retaining walls.

Plan to remove ice and water. Low areas in a slab, pools, and other features often collect snow and water which will freeze and thaw, expanding and contracting against the walls and within the porous concrete causing damage to the surface and possibly to the structural integrity of the concrete. Make sure you have a plan to deal with these issues and temporarily cover this hazard.

Use cold weather concrete. Review your specifications, and when in doubt, refer to ACI 306. Make sure you know whether your architect or engineer will allow for add mixtures ahead of time. Several add mixtures on the market now help to encapsulate the moisture in the concrete, allowing for flooring to bond and helping to boost the vapor barrier as well as repelling surface moisture due to exposure to the elements.

Understand and adhere to material delivery and storage requirements. A vast majority of materials are susceptible to excessive moisture and temperatures below 40°F. Without tenting and heat, materials may freeze if left to the elements. Read and understand your manufacturer’s requirements for material handling and application.

Prepare your parking lot. In winter, it’s difficult to store materials level and off the ground if the ground profile continues to change. Plan on paving early in order to avoid vehicles getting stuck, deliveries turning away, manpower being unable to access the building safely, and to maintain general site cleanliness. Whenever possible, get the base course down, a binder course or concrete paving is even better. This will reduce mud pits, avoid rework on paving structures, increase mobility of people and supplies, and provide a more safe and secure area for material laydown.

Secure interior heat. Heat can be helpful in many ways. It makes drywall and paint possible in cold conditions and can also provide a more safe and comfortable work environment; thus, increasing productivity in months that may not allow work without it. Remember, some forms of heat, like propane, will introduce moisture to the interior so make sure there is adequate ventilation.

Ensure you have power. Even if you have permanent power, have a plan for when the power is disrupted so your work won’t be. Generators can be hard to come by when everyone needs one. Also remember, no matter how many windows you had in the summer that allowed sun to help with lighting, the days are much shorter; artificial lighting will be necessary just to meet standard working times in most areas.

All of the items above directly impact quality and play a large role in maintaining a safe jobsite focused on quality. Being unprepared for winter weather can cause exposure to the elements, material loss or misuse, inadequate lighting, irregular grades, snow and ice causing slipping hazards, and a variety of other issues. Being winter ready will help us continue to meet our schedules and stay on budget – all while delivering and exceptional client experience.

Brian Tiehan is a Quality Manager for EMJ Construction. 

Three Ways BIM Coordination Can Aid Your Project

“BIM” has become quite the buzz word in recent years for the AEC industry. But at EMJ, it’s way more than a buzz word, it’s a critical value-adding tool for our clients and projects.

Building Information Modeling (BIM) spans the lifecycle of a construction project. It enables clients to visualize final working buildings and the layers of the construction process. EMJ Construction Technology helps teams identify obstacles, eliminate unnecessary costs and capture opportunities to add value throughout the project timeline. A recent project in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee is a prime example of all three of these things.

The Residence of Mt. Juliet is a new 212,000-square-foot independent and assisted living community. During the framing of this four-story, wood-frame building EMJ’s Construction Technology Manager, Caleb Wickersham, did a laser scan of the site that he could then compare to the 3-D model to ensure the process would go smoothly.

Caleb’s brief visit to the site, his scan of the project, and comparing it to the 3-D model had an immediate positive impact on the project. The following are just three ways that BIM coordination immediately provided value to the team.

1) Identifying obstacles. When the laser scan was complete, the comparison showed that there were certain elements missing. There were trusses, but the exact framing was off. Holes had been cut during the framing process that would not align with the ductwork when it was time to be installed. The laser scan allowed the team to pin point the exact locations that would cause issues and highlight them for the HVAC subcontractor before he even encountered them.

2) Eliminating unnecessary costs. As soon as the obstacles had been identified, the project team was able to coordinate with both the HVAC subcontractor and the framer to get a plan of action. Because these issues were identified early, the team was able to develop an approach that allowed for more efficient coordination of trades, eliminating unnecessary costs and time.

3) Add value throughout the project timeline. Another step taken in the BIM coordination process was comparing both the floor and unit plans to ensure the final product would meet the correct codes and specifications. In this case in particular, this was extremely important for the owner because senior living facilities must have certain ADA clearances. The comparison showed a four-inch difference in wall locations between the two plans, which could have posed a major issue for the project. However, the project team was able to quickly see from the scans and the 3-D model, that the variation would not effect the ADA standards. This allowed the team to continue building, according to plans, avoiding any re-work and ensuring the owner that the building would meet necessary standards.

EMJ’s internal expertise and strategic partnerships allow us to deliver technical BIM applications that enhance our clients’ construction experience. EMJ’s dedicated Construction Technology Team can partner with clients at any time during the project life-cycle to develop a custom package designed to achieve project goals.

EMJ Client Featured in Shopping Center Business

Recently, the magazine Shopping Center Business published a feature about EMJ’s client Cinemark, and how the company is transforming client experiences by increasing food and beverage, adding luxury seating and enhancing technology to take movie-going to another level. The article states:

As out-of-home entertainment providers, theater operators have been under increased pressure to enhance the movie-going environment in recent years as competition from streaming services, online television and other entertainment options have presented new options.

Theater operators have changed the movie exhibition business in recent times. Cramped auditoriums with small screens in large multi-plex theaters are no longer built, giving way to a new model with larger screens and seating in luxury recliners. Theaters have also improved their sound systems, food-and-beverage options and even extensive upgrades to their physical environments to enhance the experience and extend the stay.

One operator leading the charge for change in the movie business has been Cinemark Theatres. As one of the largest movie exhibition companies in the business, Cinemark has been smart about its real estate and its experience throughout its history.

The article goes on to highlight Cinemark’s new concept, CUT! by Cinemark, that includes a full-service restaurant and bar in an upscale atmosphere. The prototype, built by EMJ Construction, was designed to elevate the movie-going experience, opened earlier this year in Frisco, Texas, a few miles from Cinemark’s headquarters.

“We are proud to have partnered with Cinemark on this endeavor,” said William Moshier, EVP, EMJ Construction. “It’s not every day that you get to work with clients who are pushing the boundaries of their industry and delivering exceptional  experiences to their clients.”

Check out the entire article at Shopping Center Business  or learn more about EMJ’s work on the project.

H-E-B Breaks Ground on New Store in Lubbock, Texas

The EMJ Construction team was on site yesterday to help H-E-B officially break ground on its first store in Lubbock, Texas. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal was on hand to cover the event:

“Today was a milestone day for H-E-B,” said Mabrie Jackson, H-E-B public affairs director. “In our company’s 114 years, we’ve grown from one family-owned store to more than 400 stores and 116,000 employees in Texas and Mexico. Our next chapter begins today as we break ground to enter the Lubbock market. We’re thrilled to add an additional 430 Partners to our H-E-B family right in Lubbock.”

H-E-B has owned the land in Southwest Lubbock since 2013, and announced in August they planned to start construction this year and open the next. Store officials called the announcement “the worst kept secret in Lubbock,” as rumors of the opening had recently heated up.

The Lubbock store will include a True Texas BBQ restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. The barbecue joint was recently named the best barbecue chain in Texas by Texas Monthly. Other features will include a fuel station, fresh products made in-house and grocery delivery.

The 120,000-square-foot store is set to open late next year.  EMJ construction is excited and proud to be a part of this project for a Texas icon.

EMJ Construction to Build New H-E-B Store in Kerrville, Texas

EMJ Construction is excited to partner with H-E-B, one of the most iconic brands in the Lonestar State, in its plans to build a new store on Main St. in Kerrville, Texas.

EMJ Construction is excited to partner with H-E-B, one of the most iconic brands in the Lonestar State, in its plans to build a new store on Main St. in Kerrville, Texas. This project comes on the heels of a successful completion of one of its newest stores in Hudson Oaks, Texas, which was also built by EMJ Construction.

While H-E-B Hudson Oaks exemplified commitment to North Texas, this new store in Kerrville demonstrates H-E-B’s commitment to the community where it all began. To pay homage to the company’s roots, part of the design element will include a decorative facade that resembles the retailer’s original store, which was located in the 800 block of Main St. and opened in 1905 as C.C. Butt Grocery Store. The Curbside logo on the store will include a Model T, which is a nod to the early days of H-E-B grocery delivery.

Along with a nod to the past, the new store, at 106,000 square feet, will also include new features such as the inclusion of True Texas BBQ, H-E-B’s lauded barbecue restaurant that was recently named best barbecue chain in Texas by Texas Monthly and a top barbecue chain in the nation by Thrillist. The gas station will also add gas pumps as well as include diesel fuel and a car wash.

“H-E-B is known for its innovation and community service, with deep roots in Texas communities,” said George Heath, Vice President, EMJ Construction. “As a company that strives to deliver unique value to our clients, partners, and colleagues, EMJ is honored to help achieve their vision for this new store that reflects just that.”

Site construction is already underway, and the new store is expected to open late 2020. The existing 79,000-square-foot Kerrville H-E-B on Main St., which opened in 1984, will close upon the opening of the new store.

To read more about this exciting project, please visit the H-E-B Newsroom.


EMJ Corporation Sponsors The Power of Pink Luncheon and Fashion Show

This month EMJ Corporation sponsored the annual Power of Pink Luncheon and Fashion Show, benefiting the Breast Health Center at Decatur Morgan Hospital in Decatur, Alabama.

In its 10 years of existence, the Power of Pink events have raised more than $700K to provide free or reduced mammograms for the underserved and underinsured in the community, stereotactic biopsy equipment, ICAD equipment, node machine, and educational resources for patients.

Recently, the hospital completely renovated the Breast Health Center and purchased a 3D Mammography machine, the first in Decatur and Morgan Counties. Due to high demand, funds raised from this year’s events will help purchase additional equipment.

While the total amount raised at this year’s event isn’t finalized, it is estimated to be more than $60K. EMJ Corporation is proud to be a small part of the event and to support this life-saving work. To see more about the benefit, visit The Decatur Daily.

The Power of the Pink Luncheon and Fashion Show.


EMJ Corporation President and CEO Burt Odom attends the Power of Pink Luncheon and Fashion Show.

The Beach Company Breaks Ground on the Massive River Rock Development

Chattanooga Times Free Press Staff photo by Tim Barber/ Following Monday’s groundbreaking, Beach Company of Charleston, (SC) President John Darby, center, stands with partner Marc Leder, left, and Beach Company Development Manager Alan McMahon and talks about the new River Rock development that will take over the downtown block of land they stand on for a large condo project located between 3rd and 4th Streets.


The Beach Company recently broke ground on a massive mixed-use project in Chattanooga. EMJ Construction will serve as the general contractor. The Chattanooga Times Free Press covered the ground breaking. Here is an excerpt of its report:

A Charleston, South Carolina, developer of downtown condos, apartments and retail stores across the South will soon bring one of the biggest new mixed-use projects to Chattanooga’s downtown.

On a former Unum surface parking lot just a couple of blocks from the Walnut Street Bridge, the Beach Company announced today it will soon start construction on a 3.5-acre complex of 151 apartments, a dozen condominiums and 16,000 square feet of commercial space built around a 300-space parking facility just north of Unum’s corporate headquarters.

“We’ve invested all across the Southeast, but not in Chattanooga until now and we’re really excited to be here,” John Darby, the third generation CEO of the Beach Co., said today during a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new River Rock project. “There’s a lot about Chattanooga that reminds me of my hometown (Charleston), including that both cities are now in the top 10 list by Conde’ Nast of the best small cities to visit.”

Beach Company Development Manager Alan McMahon said the developers hope to have the first apartments ready to rent by the end of 2020 and the entire complex, which will include a half dozen buildings from three to five stories in height, completed by 2021.

“The Beach Company is a visionary developer and this work will have a lasting impact on Chattanooga,” said Chas Torrence, EVP, EMJ Construction. “We’re proud to be a part of this important work in our hometown.”

Read the entire article: Work on one of the biggest mixed-use projects in Chattanooga’s downtown to begin soon near Unum.


Chattanooga Times Free Press Staff photo by Tim Barber / Hamilton County Commissioner David Sharpe, right, stands with a line of officials at Monday’s groundbreaking for the new River Rock development between 3rd and 4th Streets. From right are Sharpe, Marianne Chaney, Erskine Oglesby, Jr., David Beard, Kim White, Darryl Reyna, Marc Leder, John Darby, J.C. Darby, Alan McMahon, Tim Bowman, Tyler Cooper, Dan Doyle, Mayor Andy Burke and Mayor Jim Coppinger.