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From Drawing to Building: Laura Capraro’s Career in Construction
Like many municipalities in the Columbus metro area, the City of Westerville is enjoying strong growth, with a population increase of nearly one fifth over the last ten years. Recognized as one of “America’s Best Places to Live” by Money Magazine, Westerville’s boom is the result of a confluence of factors, from the region’s strong economy to the many cultural and educational opportunities the area affords. Of course, with growth comes challenges. To manage the City’s growth sustainably and cost-effectively, Westerville has embarked on a series of municipal projects that will serve residents and businesses for many years to come.
To help deliver these projects as planned, Westerville opted to bring aboard project management consultant Hill International, Inc. Westerville’s relationship with Hill provides a blueprint for other growing municipalities that need to build, renovate, or expand their facilities to continue providing high-quality services. Specifically, their efforts demonstrate how a long-term partnership between a municipal client and a project management partner drives project success.
As a project management consultant develops relationships with municipal stakeholders and decision makers and develops a more detailed understanding of project drivers and constraints, the consultant is better able to provide services tailored to client preferences and processes. This saves time and reduces project costs. Ideally, municipal clients can find project management partners that bring a combination of local experience and expertise enhanced by national, or even international, management innovations and best practices. Westerville’s projects provide an example of this dynamic in action.
Kicking Off with a Community Center
The City’s recently completed $20 million renovation and expansion of a community center delivered a 50,000 SF facility featuring a new and expanded fitness area, a second gymnasium, a warm water therapy pool, additional locker space, an expanded childcare area, additional multi-use rooms, a serving kitchen, a senior citizen/social wing, an expanded track, senior citizen entry, party rooms, and an indoor adventure play area.
Recognizing the complexity of this undertaking, the City chose the Hill Owner’s Representative (OR) team to help manage the project. Specifics of Hill’s services included providing preconstruction support, constructability reviews, estimate reviews, construction management, and inspection services. Hill also tracked budgets for the City to enable decision makers to monitor funding more easily.
Hill Senior Project Manager Milton Lewis, PE, explains: “Westerville is a sophisticated client who understood the value of an OR. Nevertheless, I think we surprised them in the range of support we could offer once we understood and helped them communicate their priorities for the project. For example, keeping the center opening during construction was key, so we emphasized logistics and staging reviews prior to construction. Of course, cost and schedule were also drivers—like any municipal client Westerville wants to be a good steward of public funds. Hill excels in estimating and cost control, so we added value to the project here as well. And finally, while we were performing our scope and applying our extensive knowledge of the Central Ohio construction market, we were learning more every day about Westerville’s specific procedures, processes, and preferences.”
Further Growth on the Police and Court Facility
The benefits of an ongoing relationship between Hill’s OR team and the City became more apparent on Westerville’s Police and Court Facility. This project involves the redevelopment/expansion of an existing 28,000 SF spec office building into a new 60,000 SF facility that will house the City’s Police Department and Mayor’s Court, a community-based judicial forum with jurisdiction over local misdemeanor cases. The new building will include an underground firing range and a large Scenario/Simulator Room for police training. The building is also designated as a storm shelter and Emergency Operations Center, requiring a robust structure and full on-site generator backup.
Like the Community Center project, the City engaged Hill near the end of the design phase. Since then, Lewis’ team has been working closely with the City, the architect, and the general contractor to address issues with the construction of the original spec office building and other common issues surrounding this type of extensive renovation and expansion.
Says Lewis: “In our role as the OR, we work hard to keep the city fully informed and to counsel them on issues that may impact the project. We help track the budget and schedule and advise them on the actions they may need to take as the owner and on the roles and responsibilities of the other members of the construction team. We often will help them understand how an issue might impact the budget or schedule and what they should reasonably expect from the other members of the team.”
Lewis goes on to say. “Because of our positive and professional relationships with the architect and general contractor and the trust that we have gained from the City, we’ve been able to identify and implement several value engineering solutions to absorb the unanticipated scope within budget. Without this mutual respect and positive working relationship, these solutions would have been harder to achieve. Instead, we’re handling the challenge as a team, controlling costs, and minimizing schedule impacts.”
Moving Forward Together
With each project executed, Westerville adds to its own library of construction best practices and lessons learned. Of course, this is true not only of the City’s work with Hill, but also of the other construction managers Westerville works with, whether these are first-time hires or, like Hill, firms with a record of success with the City.
The best proof of the benefits of having a long-standing OR partner is Westerville’s decision to retain Hill to serve as OR on the City’s upcoming Annex and Fire Station 111 project. Because of our proven track record and our trusted professional advice, Westerville decided to procure OR support prior to hiring the designer. This allows the OR to assist the City in planning the project, selecting the most appropriate project delivery method, and procuring a designer.
“The City has seen the value of OR services on both the Community Center and the Police and Court Facility,” says Lewis. “Now, because Westerville trusts us to help at any stage of their project, we’re in an even better position to help them deliver the Annex and Fire Station 111 project according to their vision.”
Westerville and Hill’s relationship has already facilitated the delivery of one outstanding project for the City. Two more are in the works, each better prepared than the last for success because of the City’s partnership with their OR. Developing such a partnership can help other clients and consultant firms better deliver their own complex and unique projects together.
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