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1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Ongoing renovations at the main AAFES building. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jimmie Cummings) VIEW ORIGINAL
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2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Ongoing renovations at the AAFES main building on Fort Rucker will result in a new HVAC system. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jimmie Cummings) VIEW ORIGINAL
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3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Ongoing renovations at the AAFES main building will result in a new Qdoba restaurant and a new Starbucks at Fort Rucker. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jimmie Cummings) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The project bringing big improvements to the Army and Air Force Exchange Service shopping experience at Fort Rucker continues to make progress in the building housing the main store, the food court, the Four Seasons and concession vendors.

The highlights of the improvements include adding a Qdoba Mexican Eats restaurant, a Starbucks, more shopping room in the Four Seasons and a customer bathroom in the main store, according to Brenda Hyland, Maxwell/Fort Rucker/Gunter Exchange general manager.

Other improvements include new polished concrete flooring, replacing the current tiled flooring, improved lighting and other infrastructure improvements, including an overhaul of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, she said, adding that work on the project began Nov. 18.

“The Fort Rucker Main Exchange Shopping Center Image Update is progressing with many exciting upgrades,” Hyland said. “Some of these are emerging and readily apparent. Others, while not visible, will enhance the customers’ experience greatly. The principle of these is the new HVAC. The old ductwork is being removed and replaced in its entirety throughout the building. While this occurs, a mobile unit is providing heat and air.”

“The image upgrade is a massive undertaking – almost every square inch of the building is being renovated,” she said. “We thank our patrons for their patience as we make our transformation and we hope they will love the results when the project wraps up in the spring of 2022!”

Construction in the first phase of the Four Seasons side of the store has been completed, including installing the new polished concrete flooring and upgraded LED lighting, she said, adding that the completed sections offers patrons a preview of what they will see building wide.

“This flooring will be implemented in all areas that are currently tiled and lighting will be installed throughout the shopping center,” Hyland added. “Fixture upgrades and a merchandise reset will be carried out when the remainder of the construction work on this side of the store is complete. We expect that to be in the latter part of June.”

Construction on Qdoba Mexican Eats is under way, and the grand opening of the new restaurant is scheduled for Aug. 3.

“The addition of another food facility requires plumbing modifications,” Hyland said. “In the next week, work will begin in the food court dining area and the mall area. The first item will be a trench for the new lines running across the food court, with an off-shoot to the location of the new Starbucks, which is scheduled to open in late July. The trench-cutting work will be done at night and the trench will be made safe for customers passing through the area with planking to cover it during operating hours.”

Around April 26, the floor tile in the mall and food court will be demolished to expose the concrete below it. This work will also be done at night and in phases, she added.

“It will be safe for people to walk across and, while not cosmetically attractive while the work is in progress, there should be no disruption to customer traffic,” Hyland said. “The first phase will be from the northwest entrance (by the Four Seasons) up to Subway. The dining area of the food court will be next and will most likely be done in two sections, depending on the flooring beneath the tile. We anticipate there needing to be some fresh concrete poured in that area, but accommodations for through-traffic will be made, and it should only take a day or two for the concrete to cure and be walkable.”

Charley’s will be open for the duration of the project, with the exception of a one- to two-day window (exact date to be announced) when the wall dividing its kitchen space from Qdoba’s is demolished. Popeye’s Chicken and Subway will remain open until after Starbucks and Qdoba are in operation, the general manager added.

“At that point, they will need to close for roughly three months to allow for plumbing and flooring renovation work in the food storage and preparation areas, and an image upgrade at Subway,” she said. “After this work is completed, both restaurants will reopen.”

The last section of the flooring in the mall will be in the area from the front entrance to the main store entrance. The ramp will continue to be accessible during the day, Hyland said.

“The HVAC upgrades in the food court and mall area will run concurrently with the floor work,” she added. “All of the demolition of the old ductwork will occur after hours. You will see exposed ceiling during this phase, but it will be made safe each day prior to opening.”

Work on the top half of the store will commence once Four Seasons and the mall area have been completed. This will be done in three sections to allow for continued customer service throughout the project, Hyland said, adding that “one small part of the construction in this section of the store has already commenced and will be completed in May – a new customer restroom in the back left corner of the main store.”