Case Study: Small Town Values. Big City Attitude.

Food Lion

Multiple Locations


Founded in 1957 in Salisbury, North Carolina, Food Lion is now one of the largest supermarket chains in the United States, offering quality products at great prices and neighborly service in 1,300 stores throughout 11 Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic states. Little continues to enjoy a strategic partnership with Food Lion, and has been afforded a diverse body of work, including retail stores, corporate campus renovations and an award-winning adaptive reuse of their Customer Support Center.

Little’s relationship with Food Lion began 17 years ago through supermarket design, and it was the conversion of a 125,000 sf existing warehouse space into a new customer support center on its corporate campus that helped strengthen this partnership.

“Little has been involved in all of our corporate facilities design for more than 5 years. These projects include a new data center, existing mail room renovation, new office facility and renovation of our existing office space. Their involvement has included programming, strategic space planning, digital media, land planning, LEED coordination and USGBC submission, graphic design, architectural, structural, PM&E engineering and interior design. Little has exceeded our expectations and continues to be our architect of choice in our corporate design.Clarence Ballard, Construction Manager, Food Lion
Fig. 01 – 04
Existing Warehouse Exterior & Interior. Diverted waste from landfill 80.11%

A Space Transformed Food Lion

Implementing a multi-disciplined project team, Little used Food Lion’s core values and guiding principles as the foundation to the design of the customer support center. This high performance workplace positions the organization as a stable yet progressive company while reflecting Food Lion’s small town values.

Based on Food Lion’s desire for the renovated warehouse to appear honest and straightforward, Little highlighted existing structural elements and integrated an interior palette of colors and textures that are both warm and practical. “Neighborhoods” were created within the “large box” to give order to the open expansive space, making it more comfortable and interesting, while interior and exterior architectural elements were linear and deliberate.

Fig. 05
Lobby. Progression from sketch, to 3d model, to finished space.

The renovation also reflects the value Food Lion places on the innovation that is sparked when different ideas, perceptions and ways of processing information collide. The workspace encourages such interaction with open mezzanines that visually link departments between the first and second floors, meeting areas at circulation paths and support spaces that bring people together, such as the café, a 600-person assembly hall and outdoor gathering areas.

To create a more comfortable, flexible yet structured work environment for employees Little’s design team removed the existing concrete masonry unit façade and maintained the existing structure, infilling with glazing. The design provides the “neighborhoods” with direct views to the outside and abundant natural light. Demountable walls strategically placed under dropped ceilings can be reconfigured into different office sizes or adjusted to accommodate functional changes without requiring hard construction.

Food Lion employees were at first very skeptical about going to work in the “warehouse”, but now it is the desired place to be on the corporate campus.
Floorplan Legend

Multi-disciplinary Approach Creative, Complete and Well-Coordinated Solutions

We believe deeply that the strongest and best ideas come from intense collaboration between designers from all fields of design, united in one mission to create solutions that measurably improve client performance.

The new Food Lion Customer Support Center has been recognized with numerous design awards, including:

  • NC AIA Award of Merit for Food Lion Corporate Support Center
  • Charlotte AIA Awards, Award of Honor for Food Lion
  • IIDA Carolinas Chapter Design Awards, Best of Show: Food Lion
03a. Branded Graphics

Little’s Brand Design and Communication team developed a branded exterior and interior wayfinding system for Food Lion that included zoning and naming nomenclature. A variety of branding moments were also designed for common areas throughout the space, from the founder's story and messaging about the organization’s core brand attributes to a dedicated area where associates can post personalized communication.

03b. Sustainable Design

At the early stages in the design of the customer support center, Little encouraged Food Lion to incorporate sustainable design strategies into this adaptive reuse project. Since the US Green Building Council’s LEED certification was new to Food Lion, Little guided them through each step of the journey and ultimately the achievement of LEED Silver Certification.

After the renovation, Food Lion’s LEED portfolio expanded. In partnership with the Food Lion team, Little ‘greened’ their retail portfolio to implement LEED certification as a standard for new grocery stores resulting in the first LEED certified grocery store in South Carolina.

From its start in 2008 with the customer support center, to the achievement of LEED EBOM (Existing Buildings, Operations and Maintenance) certification for the Annex in 2013, Little has strengthened this aspect of the professional relationship with Food Lion through ongoing education, training and implementation of sustainable design strategies.

Food Lion projects have been recognized for their sustainability with numerous awards over the years, including:

  • NC AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) Award for Sustainability
  • Charlotte AIA Carole Hoefner Carriker Sustainable Design Award
  • IIDA Carolinas Chapter Design Awards, Sustainable Award
  • Charlotte Business Journal’s Inaugural Green Awards, Commercial Renovation Project
03c. Engineering

Little’s Engineering team first initiated its relationship with Food Lion by performing a sustainability analysis on their retail store prototype. New standards, such as high-efficiency HVAC equipment, water-saving plumbing fixtures, the addition of skylights to increase daylight into the store and sensors and controls to reduce energy usage, were subsequently established as measures to enhance store efficiency. Using this new prototype, Food Lion built the first LEED-certified grocery store in South Carolina.

The customer support center project, which followed, involved all engineering disciplines including structural, mechanical and electrical design that were instrumental in achieving LEED Silver Certification for the building. Design elements included solar PV panels, an Under Floor Air Distribution system and a lighting system with occupancy sensors.

There were also three other projects on the Food Lion corporate campus that Little’s Engineering team played a major role in: a floor-by-floor renovation of a 6-story office building, a single-story support building and a 17,000 sf data center annex.

03d. Land Development

The Land Development team began working with Food Lion in 2004 on its store support and data center. In early 2005, Little prepared a master plan of the entire campus and then later began working on a master plan for the customer support center.

Several projects were completed on both campuses, including concept plans for a credit union building, improved truck access to the mail room, landscape enhancements, various utility upgrades and a study for improving a road intersection near the headquarters campus where Food Lion trucks were having difficulty making turns.

The final phases of both the campus master plans were implemented in 2013. In addition to a parking lot expansion on headquarters campus, improvements to the store support and data center campus include a new traffic circle, renovation of existing parking adjacent to the building to add planting islands, lights, landscaping and a pavement overlay, and the creation of a plaza space between the building and the parking lot.

03e. CAFM & Occupancy Planning

As the customer support center neared completion, a reorganization and addition of new markets prompted Food Lion to utilize the expertise of Little’s CAFM & Occupancy Planning team. After analyzing the retailer’s current and future space needs, the team determined a migration schedule and identified cost savings solutions that mitigated the need for multiple moves and costly lease space. Little continues to provide on-site tactical planning to assure Food Lion’s investment in space is utilized efficiently and effectively.

CAFM & Occupancy Planning continued to provide occupancy planning as Food Lion’s Headquarters Tower was renovated floor by floor until a total of all seven spaces were completed. The project has taken seven years, with the final area to be complete by the end of 2013.

“Bringing FM Strategies' expertise to our headquarters project has proved invaluable. This complex project demands continual coordination of the overall master plan and schedule, and addresses the impact the renovation has on the associates.” Clarence Ballard, Construction Manager
03f. Digital Media

Within the scope of the customer support center, warehouse expansion and store support and data center projects, Little’s digital media team created detailed renderings that helped Food Lion visualize architectural spaces, details, finishes and furniture for breakout areas, cafes, lobbies and work spaces, as well as exterior facades and signage locations. These renderings facilitated a more expeditious and accurate understanding of Little’s ideas and designs, which resulted in more productive meetings and ultimately fewer misunderstandings once the facilities were actually built.

Results Beyond Architecture

“I just wanted to say thank you for all the help and support that the entire team at Little gives in an effort to make Food Lion successful in our portion of the organization. Your hard work in support of our strategic planning, design, branding strategy and financial forecasting, and dedication to going the extra mile are sincerely appreciated.” Clarence Ballard, Construction Manager, Food Lion
-31% Reduced Lighting Energy Use
-18.6% Reduced HVAC Energy Use
-56.5% Reduced Water Use
-85% Reduced Churning Workspace
+100% Increased Daylight & Exterior Views
20.7% of Materials Used Were Recycled
58.3% of Materials Used Were Manufactured Regionally

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