Demolition of the former Gottschalks department store building at Coddingtown mall began Thursday morning to make way for a Target expected to open in 2014.
Crews using heavy machinery ripped through the exterior walls of the two-story Santa Rosa building, collapsing the southwest corner and sending the black letters of the Gottschalks sign crashing into a pile of twisted rubble.
"It's exciting to see it come down," said Rick Freeman, president of Codding Construction, which built the structure that was previously home to the Liberty House and Macy's department stores. "It's served its purpose."
The project is the latest step in the mall's efforts to reinvigorate the 1960s-era shopping center. The mall's owners have spent millions in recent years on upgrades that have attracted new tenants, including a Whole Foods and BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse.
"For us as a company, this is a monumental milestone for the future redevelopment and revitalization of Coddingtown," said Kirstie Moore, property and development manager of Codding Enterprises, which built the mall and now owns 50 percent of it with partner Simon Property Group.
In addition to the department store, portions of the adjoining mall also will be demolished to allow Target to nestle into the mall's core by about 80 feet.
The work is being handled by NCM Demolition and Remediation of Dublin. Crews began stripping the interior of the building and prepping it for demolition about two weeks ago.
About 95 percent of the materials in the steel and concrete-block building will be recycled as part of the project, Freeman said.
After the building is down and debris hauled off, Codding Construction will begin prepping the site with new utilities and parking lot improvements before turning it over to Target for construction of a 143,000-square-foot single-story big-box store.
The new store is expected to generate from 200 to 250 new jobs and bring lots of new shoppers to the mall.
Ironically, Codding turned its nose up at Target in 1996 after Macy's moved into the former Emporium building on the east end of the mall.
Mall officials at the time said they were holding out for a higher-end retailer than a Target or a Wal-Mart. In 1997, they landed Gottschalks after agreeing to expand the building by 53,000 square feet.
Since Gottschalks' departure, mall officials had hoped to find a new tenant or tenants willing to reuse the existing two-story structure, but they were not successful.
Freeman said the building was well constructed, was structurally sound and could have been remodeled for a new tenant.
"At the time, it was a well-designed, modern building," he said. "It has held up."
Despite the waste and expense of demolishing an existing building, what replaces it will be built to LEED green-building standards, Moore said.
Bill Cook, site superintendent for the demolition firm, said Thursday morning that some of the larger iron support beams in the building were proving challenging for one excavator, but a larger machine was on its way.
The two will work in tandem and the building likely will be completely leveled by the end of today, he said.
More time-consuming would be the sorting of the material for recycling, he said. That work already had produce a large pile of twisted metal in the parking lot that included staircases, air ducts, pipes, sheet metal and girders.