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Making a Destination: The Hocking Hills Lodge Project

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Making a Destination: The Hocking Hills Lodge Project

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is undertaking a more than $1 billion capital improvement program (CIP) to improve their parklands and to steward natural resources throughout the State. As owner’s agent, Hill International has been working alongside the ODNR since 2015 and has assisted the department in building renovations, new construction, utility infrastructure upgrades, water and wastewater treatment plant rehabilitation, parking/roadway repair and replacement, and large civil projects.

One notable project Hill supported for the ODNR is the Hocking Hills Lodge rebuild. Located within Hocking Hills State Park in Logan, the original Hocking Hills Lodge burned down in 2016. ODNR’s $40 million project aimed to replace the building with a larger and more resilient facility, and one that offered more amenities for park users. The new 88,000 SF, structural-timber facility includes 81 guest rooms, a large lobby with oversized fireplaces, indoor and outdoor pools, business meeting spaces for more than 200 people, a café, a fitness center, a gift shop, and a full-service restaurant. The project was delivered within budget in October 2022.

The project’s success is especially noteworthy because it faced several major obstacles, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Hill served as owner’s agent for the project, helping overcome challenges and promote project success by verifying scope, coordinating with the project team and stakeholders, monitoring schedule and budget, and providing thorough site inspections. Such services from an experienced owner’s agent can help clients facing similar challenges drive their own projects to successful completion.

Overcoming Challenges with Owner’s Agent Support

Timber Prices & Availability

According to Trading Economics, lumber spiked to all-time highs during COVID-19. As the new Lodge’s structure was to be made of timber beams, this represented a substantial cost risk to the project. In addition, getting beams and other materials to the project site was a challenge due to supply chain issues and rising shipping costs. To help mitigate these risks, Hill provided an array of cost and schedule management support through the project’s life cycle.

During preconstruction, the Hill team reviewed the design, provided independent estimates, and helped the owner conduct guaranteed maximum price (GMP) negotiations with the contractor. Hill’s support during GMP negotiations helped ensure sufficient contingency for fluctuating lumber prices. Hill also helped procure and track long-lead items to avoid delays. During construction, Hill managed the scope, validated estimates, continued to monitor market costs, helped optimize sequencing, and supported value engineering initiatives to make sure the project was achieved within budget.

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A Remote Destination

Hocking Hills Lodge is a prized destination for conferences and getaways because of its location deep within the State Park. The Lodge is located about 20 miles off the highway. To get there, one must drive through old, narrow, steep, and curvy roads for more than 10 miles. The lush vegetation is charming but reduces driving visibility. This location represented a major risk to getting materials to the site safely and on time. Hill’s tracking of long-lead items helped prevent delays.

Additionally, Hocking Hills sits an hour away from the nearest major city, Columbus. This made finding enough qualified workers to do the job a challenge—especially at the height of the pandemic. Hill used its experience working with ODNR, as well as other State agencies such as the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio Turnpike Commission, to help ODNR identify contractors with the capacity to get to the site and complete the project as planned.

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A Path to More Successful Projects

While many hospitality and public projects face obstacles such as remote locations, the Hocking Hills Lodge project team surmounted obstacles that were intensified by the project’s timing at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. With Hill’s owner’s agent support, the project team mitigated risk, kept the project within budget, exceeded stakeholder expectations, and delivered the new Lodge as envisioned.

An experienced owner’s agent provides a path to more successful projects. Owner’s agent support can help project teams carefully monitor project progress, anticipate and uncover challenges early, implement effective communications throughout a project organization, and mitigate obstacles to project success. Such advantages can help drive positive outcomes on any project.

About the Authors

Brice Clawson

Hill International, Inc. Vice President Brice L. Clawson, LEED AP, has more than 20 years of experience in construction management, critical path method (CPM) scheduling, project management, and claims analysis. Brice’s projects include entertainment and sports facilities, hotels, correctional facilities, and educational buildings for such notable clients as the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Ohio School Facilities Commission, and universities across the Midwest and Southern United States. On his assignments, Brice is responsible for administering preconstruction services, coordinating and inspecting site work, developing and monitoring safety programs, and implementing construction best practices. For more information on Hill’s experience with the ODNR or to learn how Hill can help your next project thrive, reach out to Vice President Brice Clawson, LEED AP, CCM, at [email protected].

Content Developer Joseph Pooler has worked with Hill International since 2019, helping company experts capture ideas, best practices, and other innovations in articles and other media. He can be reached at [email protected].