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April 29, 2011 7:00 AM CDT

Target Corporation Digs Down to go Upscale in Michigan

Hardscaping case study


The curve in this retaining wall was constructed using a three-piece block pattern of concrete blocks from Atlas Block.

The curve in this retaining wall was constructed using a three-piece block pattern of concrete blocks from Atlas Block.
The Bloomfield Town Square Shopping Centre in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., is a large commercial area tucked into the affluent community located 30 minutes outside Detroit. When the Showcase Cinemas closed, a large building in the complex was left vacant. In early-2007, Target Corp. proposed to build a Target Department Store on that site. The corporation wanted to make this location as upscale as possible, given the affluence of the area.

The Challenge

The challenge presented to Adam Timps, landscape contractor at Wall Tek, was to build a wall around the vast Target property that fulfilled the requirements of building restrictions, while achieving an upscale and appealing aesthetic.

The contractor’s team also had to work within the constraints of a single-story height limitation imposed in the area, so the architect proposed to build the Target store to its originally planned multi-storey height by excavating the site. The retaining wall also had to provide structural stability for the excavation. This was the primary cause for constructing the retaining wall, says Timps.

The retaining wall built around the Target store had to be strong enough to keep hold of site soils of up to 25 feet deep in order to maintain a landscaped berm around the store. Furthermore, due to the shape of the building itself, the wall had to incorporate a large curve in one section.

The affluence of the area, and the corporation’s intention to make this Target the most upscale location to date, necessitated a pleasing design. The architect selected building materials to mirror the Cranbrook Institute, a natural history museum in the area that features interesting architecture. The architect planned to use metal panels, stone, stucco and a wood-like rainscreen to construct the exterior of the Target store, and the corporation requested that the wall complement the stone façade of the building.

Local residents had demanded that the wall shield the department store from their view, and that Target Corp. must maintain green space around the perimeter of the property.

The Solution

Target Corp. chose Atlas Block products from Ontario, Canada, to construct the retaining wall. Atlas Block manufactures concrete blocks for construction and landscaping in an assortment of colors, textures and sizes. Atlas Block concrete is manufactured with up to 36 percent post-consumer recycled (PCR) content, including colored glass that typically ends up in landfills. The use of significant PCR content in production means Atlas Block products are environmentally friendly, earning builders and landscapers double the LEED points.

There were two parts to the structure: a retaining wall and a fence section. Target Corp. chose the AB Collection materials for the retaining wall and the AB Fence materials for the fence. Both sets of materials were purchased in Mahogany with a split-face texture in an Ashlar blend pattern. With construction complete, the scope of the wall and the fence totaled 10,000 square feet each.

With the right materials from Atlas Block, Timps and his team were able to construct a wall around the new Target building that adhered to the strict landscaping and construction requirements, while heightening the department store’s aesthetic to fit into the affluent area. The result was an aesthetically pleasing, durable and sustainable wall that supported the excavation required for the store’s construction. The wall also supported the addition of a visual screen along the top of its perimeter in order to block nearby residents’ from views of the large department store.

The Atlas Block materials used in the retaining wall and fence feature the crisp, clean appearance of classic cut stone in multiple color and earth tone options, giving the designers many choices to work with in order to mimic the natural stone façade of the Target store. Timps was impressed with the Ashlar pattern chosen for the retaining wall, as the color blended in with the store façade, and the color of the screen material used on top of the wall.

The multi-sized units available in both Atlas Block collections also made it easy to create a stone-inspired look by assembling the blocks in attractive random patterns as found in traditional masonry walls. “The three-piece block pattern from the AB Collection used to build the retaining wall was not only suitable for aesthetic purposes of this project, but also for forming the required curve around the building,” says Timps. “We loved putting it in; it was nice and easy.”

The success of the project is clear: “Anyone who drives by [the wall] tells us how nice it looks,” says Timps. The beauty and flexibility of the product has lead to the use of Atlas Block landscaping products by another Target Department Store location in Macomb, Mich.

Originally published in Masonry magazine.

About the Author

Masonry, the official publication of the Mason Contractors Association of America, covers every aspect of the mason contractor profession - equipment and techniques, building codes and standards, business planning, promoting your business, legal issues and more. Read or subscribe to Masonry magazine at


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