TD Bank renovation at mall underway. The new centerpiece: A local 9-ton rock.

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AUBURN — TD Bank announced plans last June for a $16 million renovation to turn the former Steve & Barry’s in the Auburn Mall into a new call center. Work began Feb. 1.

It won’t open until this summer, but the “Now Hiring” sign is already out on the lawn.

On Thursday afternoon, one man worked a jackhammer on the floor of the future kitchen, not far from where cash registers used to be. A dozen others strung ductwork and wire; still others swept floors.

Smack in the middle of it: a 9-ton block of granite awaiting a 40-foot-square skylight to be cut out of the ceiling above. The stone came from Christian Hill Quarry in Auburn, out by the airport, the site supervisor said.

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“There is clearly something symbolic about a rock,” TD Bank Maine President Larry Wold said. “It’s solid; it’s permanent. It’s tough. ”

Wold said the company had gone local as much as possible in construction hires and design as it goes about building a LEED-certified space. LEED is an internationally recognized “green” building certification system that focuses on energy savings, water efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality and stewardship of resources, according to a LEED Web site.

Green features at the new call center will include space for parking bicycles, wood from “sustainably managed forests,” lots of natural light, filters that keep pollen and dust low and bathrooms that use less water. Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers is making the furniture for the reception area and lounge, according to a spokeswoman.

Wold said the call center will open with 250 employees, 50 new hires and 200 who will move over from the bank’s existing call center in the Bates Mill Enterprise Complex. The company’s goal is to employ 500 there by the end of 2011.

TD Bank currently has 2,700 employees in Maine, about 1,200 of them in Lewiston-Auburn.

The new call center will serve customers as far away as Florida, answering phones 24 hours a day. This economy has people working all sorts of jobs at all hours, Wold said. Sometimes that means doing your banking at 1 a.m.

For customers to have a good experience, employees have to have one too, he said, hence the lengths to make the mall an inviting space.

“If you called any business in the state, they’d say, ‘Our people are our most important asset,’” Wold said.

The design, he said, is saying that and meaning it. “You have to have an environment where they feel comfortable, important, proud — I think that accomplishes all those things.”

Kemp Carey, site superintendent from Pizzagalli Construction, said workers began with an empty shell and have been adding walls, wiring, ductwork and piping to the 60,000-square-foot space.

The north and south entrances of the former retail store will stay in the same spots but will be changed to glass walls. Big green dumpsters now sit in the parking lot outside marked “concrete,” “cardboard,” and “Sheetrock” to collect the construction cast-offs.

“We recycle everything we can,” Carey said. “We sort all the concrete, all the metals, all the wood. That’s one little part of the LEED (goals).”

He plans to be done by June 30.

kskelton@sunjournal.com

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