Landscapes of Month: Maintaining an Aging Shopping and Office Center - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Landscapes of Month: Maintaining an Aging Shopping and Office Center

Photo: Sandy DeFoe

Located in North City, Missouri, the Briarcliff Shops and Offices intends to provide a unique, up-scale location that supplies shopping, dining, offices, and events, including a park and pond, to the local community and city at large. In order to maintain this area, Embassy Landscape Group, Inc., based in Riverside, Missouri, was hired to take on the project.

Due to the successful maintenance of this property, Embassy Landscape Group received a Gold Award in the 2022 Awards of Excellence.

Photo: Sandy DeFoe

“This award means a great deal to all of us at Embassy Landscape Group and is a huge honor to be recognized,” says Jared Cross, the account manager at Embassy Landscape Group Inc. “Everyone’s contributions [and] working together as a team for the customer is what it takes to keep a property like this looking top-notch.”

While maintaining this property, a multitude of challenges has to be dealt with. Due to the complex being a 400-acre upscale area, expectations for Briarcliff Shops and Offices are incredibly high. Embassy Landscape Group has to continuously meet and coordinate with the needs of different clients, such as shop owners, restaurants, office rentals, and more.

The area was constructed in 2006, making it an older location. Due to its age, declining infrastructure often needs replacement and repairs done, which creates major challenges for irrigation.

Photo: Sandy DeFoe

“We work in conjunction with an off-site 24-hour monitoring of the irrigation systems from a sub-contractor on this property which allows the Embassy irrigation team to get to repairs as soon as possible and keep these systems running smoothly,” says Cross.

Issues also sprout from a very steep, 32-degree grade. To combat this problem, a special mower and deck were purchased, which required special training and certification to operate on steep angles and prevent erosion.

High retaining walls present accessibility and safety problems for all of the machinery and crew. This results in challenges with pruning on the outside edge hedges atop the retaining walls. Mulch has to be applied with a blower truck because of the accessibility issues on the steep hills and over retaining walls.

Photo: Sandy DeFoe

The 31 acres of turf also has special difficulties on such a steep grade; the crew has to work around high motor and pedestrian traffic. Because of potential water shortages from climate change, the turf has been  “trained” in order to become more drought tolerant, This was done by developing deeper roots and irrigating less. The turf can be difficult to maintain on mounded parking lot islands throughout the complex, so push mowers and hand trimmers are used to compensate for this.

The park and pond are used for many events, such as weddings, movie nights, and holiday lighting ceremonies. Due to this, maintenance must be scheduled around all of these.

“We are constantly working with the management company to work around special events, early shop opening times, and even late hours to make sure we can get in and do the work that is needed without interrupting the customer experience,” Cross says.

IPM is especially challenging; therefore, high vigilance must be maintained due to the way the topography channels winds. Pest issues and diseases can rapidly spread if not caught and treated immediately, so plant vulnerability and the need for the use of chemicals was reduced by building up plant health using a microorganism-based soil and root builder on all of the turf, beds, and trees throughout the complex.

Photo: Sandy DeFoe

Located in the office area, there is a fountain which is the central feature. Extensive repairs have been done on the fountain since it was leaking, and the pavers surrounding it were replaced and updated. During high winds, water continuously splashes around, so the irrigation system automatically fills the fountain when the winds die down to maintain the fountain water level and keep from burning out the pump.

Irrigating the seasonal color is also incredibly challenging. Constantly changing mix of head types, nozzles, drip, watering from the top or bottom, and timing all change depending on the specific season and what flowers are blooming at the time. Repairs also have to be done if damage occurs during season display change, soil amending, and installation.

In total, 36 crew members work on the site, with a multitude of people varying from team to team. To ensure successful maintenance of the property, 110 hours a week are spent on average over the course of 45 weeks to keep the area beautifully maintained.

Interested in participating in the Awards of Excellence? Be sure to enter your projects when entries open in February 2023.