Behind construction fences at Destin Commons, work on the 100,000-square-foot expansion project is well on its way.



“We are in the phase of doing most of our site work now, which includes all of our underground utilities for the expansion,” said Bill Frank, project manager for Turnberry Associates, which owns Destin Commons. “The first phase was to take the area in front of the existing stores and get the utilities roughed in and the paving ready for the buildings.”



As part of the expansion project, Destin Commons, which opened in 2003, will be adding roughly 20 to 25 new restaurants/retailers to its already existing 400,000-square-foot, 75-store shopping center.



Walking through the project area, Frank told The Log that what Highway 98 passersby see now is the culmination of two months of hard work, which saw the street in front of Sephora completely revamped to include roadside parking that will mirror the complex’s existing main street.



Once utilities, sewage and drainage work wraps up, the parking lot will be laid down and building pads will be set for construction to begin. Frank said Turnberry is currently working its way through the bid process to select a building contractor.



“The tentative schedule for them to be finished with the shell buildings is by the end of October 2013,” he said. “You are going to see, eventually, four buildings when all is said and done.”



Two anchor stores, which are roughly 20,000 square feet apiece, will bookend the expansion project.



“We have a major entertainment restaurant that’s going to go right out at the front as one anchor store, and then a high-end fashion retailer at the other end,” Marketing Director Kristina Trujillo said.



Given the additional tenants, Trujillo said Destin Commons would boast more than 100 tenants, which is a “benchmark” in the retail industry to be considered a regional center.



“It’s a turning point …” she said.



As construction continues, so do the guesses as to what shops and restaurants will be coming to Destin. Turnberry isn’t saying, but Trujillo said shoppers and diners could expect to see a mix of major name restaurants and retailers with national brand recognition.



“As we post updates to our Facebook page and website, everybody is so vocal about what they would like to see and that makes us excited too,” she said. “A lot of the things that people are recommending, we are in talks with already. We all seem to be on the same page.”



Top suggestions so far are a Cheesecake Factory and a Chipotle, Trujillo said, noting that negotiations with Cheesecake Factory are not currently taking place.



“We’ll bring in some more men’s retailers and more nationally recognized brands, like Express and Steve Madden,” she said.



The new buildings will be one-story and share the same general architecture as the mall’s current stores.



For those anxious to keep up with the progress, plans are in place to have a live feed available through the Destin Commons website.



A tentative grand opening of the expansion is slated for Memorial Day 2014, Frank told The Log.



“Starting in March you will start to see the buildings peak out from behind the fences,” he said.