Melaver Inc., a fourth-generation, family-owned property management and development company committed to sustainability, has recruited Circuit City Stores Inc. in helping it go green at Abercorn Common (picture below) in Savannah, Ga.

The mall will meet the standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program established by the U.S. Green Building Council, a coalition of building industry leaders that encourages recycling and energy and water efficiency. Savannah-based Melaver, which also owns a chain of grocery stores, hopes to turn Abercorn into the country's first LEED-certified shopping center.

Last month, a Giant Eagle Inc. store in Northeastern Ohio became the country's first LEED supermarket. Target, William Sonoma, Loews, Whole Foods and Pottery Barn have applied to the U.S. Green Buildings Council for LEED certification.

Abercorn tenants don't have to change to their own designs; they must just agree to the terms of the lease, which may differ from other leases. For example, one potential new tenant is used to having a certain HVAC tonnage per square foot in all its restaurants, but Melaver engineered the building so it doesn't require as much. “That's a big deal for tenants, to accept that language,” says project manager Randy Peacock.

The $30 million development cost is slightly higher (about 5 percent) than comparable projects says Melaver COO Colin Coyne, but there's a savings in the long term. Tenants pay less for energy and water and the addition of natural light from skylights and windows puts consumers in a mood to spend more.

Among the green features designed into the common spaces of the Abercorn Mall are a rainwater cistern to collect 5.5 million gallons of runoff water funneled from building rooftops to irrigate the landscape, non-toxic paint and a reflective white roof membrane to keep the roof cooler and cut down on air-conditioning costs. The developer is also, recycling cut-up concrete from the old parking lot to use as underlay under the buildings.

Melaver is renovating the ailing Abercorn Mall, doubling its size to about 210,000 square feet. Other eco-friendly features include sensors on the HVAC system that will trigger an inflow of fresh air if carbon dioxide levels rise.

Circuit City is the only store so far that has used its own architect and builder to adapt its design slightly. That includes using a reflective roof membrane, waterless urinals and water-efficient toilets, slightly altered lighting and a more energy efficient HVAC system.