Building leaders: Female C4 students tour NexusPark, hear about progress

A group of high school students got a peek at a major construction site Friday — as well as some insight into careers that might be in their future.

About 30 female students from Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. C4 construction and architecture/civil engineering classes were given a hard hat tour of NexusPark and heard from a panel of leaders on the project on Friday. C4 team leader Autumne Streeval said since a number of lead architects and contractors on the project are women, the trip was meant to help female students to imagine themselves in these careers.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up almost 47% of the country’s overall workforce but only 11% of the construction workforce and 26% for that of architectural, engineering and related services.

“Construction tends to be a career with more males,” said Streeval. “Showcasing successful women in these pathways helps females break that perception and can ultimately create a more balanced workforce within that occupation.”

Project Manager Katy Waddell with Turner Construction, which is Columbus Regional Health’s general contractor on the project, said that it was a male friend who encouraged her to consider going into the construction industry. When she first entered the field, there were some women in it, but a lower percentage than there are today.

“If I walked into a room, there were definitely times where I was the only woman there,” she said. She added that, at the time, it may have been more common to see women on the design side of projects than on the construction side.

Columbus East senior Allison Griggs expressed appreciation for the tour of NexusPark.

“I think it’s really good for the community to push females into this field, because it’s good for us to stand out and put ourselves out there in a male-dominated field,” she said.

Griggs hopes to initially pursue a career in heavy equipment operation, followed by carpentry.

“Residential construction is a whole different world than commercial,” she said. “Because there’s a lot of steel that I’ve never seen before, ductwork that’s just not recognizable to me, and just a world of opportunities.”

NexusPark is a joint effort by the city of Columbus and Columbus Regional Health to redevelop the former FairOaks Mall into a health, wellness and recreation center.

In regards to CRH’s portion of the project, spokeswoman Kelsey DeClue said that demolition is mostly complete for their their two main areas, which are the former Carson’s and an area she believes used to be a Hibbett Sports store.

At present, workers are mostly roughing in pieces such as walls, framing, utility work and HVAC.

“It’s really starting to take shape,” said DeClue. “You’ll see in there, you can kind of see where some of the main walls are going to go up, how the flow is going to be, so it’s a really exciting phase we’ve entered where you can kind of start seeing the vision and the layout come to life.”

CRH is on track to begin offering some services at NexusPark by the final quarter of 2023, and the rest will hopefully follow after quickly, within the latter half of 2024. The hospital plans to use the site to provide outpatient services and physician offices.

A list of these offerings is now available on CRH’s website. The first phase of openings — planned for the fourth quarter of 2023 — will include OB/GYN Associates.

The second phase — planned for the first and second quarters of 2024 — will include Audiology, the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. Clinic, Columbus Family Medicine, Columbus Pediatrics, Doctor’s Park Family Medicine, Family and Internal Medicine, Lab Services, Neurology and Sleep Science, Physical and Occupational Therapy/Wellness, RAU Family Medicine, Sandcrest Family Medicine, VIMCare Clinic, and Wellconnect/Heathy Communities.

“This project is going to give us an opportunity to co-locate a lot of our physician practices and services that are spread out around the community in buildings that we don’t necessarily own,” said CRH facility engineer Casey Gibson. “So it’s going to save us a lot of money but also it’s going to be great for the community, maybe be a one-stop shop.”

In regards to the city’s side of the project, Director of Administration and Community Development Mary Ferdon told the Columbus Redevelopment Commission on Monday that site work for the fieldhouse is close to completion, with concrete footers poured on the north and west sides, as well as most of the south. The east side is the last to be done. Steel is expected to arrive in mid-February, and cranes will begin placing the building walls in April.

Internal demolition is currently taking place to make way for parks department and community spaces, which will be located in the former JCPenney space.

Additionally, design firm MKSK is continuing work on a master plan for the campus’s exterior, which includes designs for outdoor park space, road configuration, trails, parking lots and landscaping.

The redevelopment commission voted in March of 2022 to approve a contract with the firm for this work and approved a grant of $450,000 to cover the cost. Ferdon said that she hopes to have a final report soon and later return to the commission in late spring with another funding request for exterior improvements, which she referred to as “Phase 1C.”

MKSK has not been hired to work on the bid component or construction oversight for this phase; these services will be provided by CRH, she said.

When asked about the timeline for the different pieces of NexusPark, Ferdon replied that it’s a “moving target.” However, the fieldhouse is expected to be substantially complete by the end of 2023 with a possible soft opening in the first quarter of 2024. City officials hope to book tournaments and other events in advance, with these starting to take place in the second quarter.

“The JCPenney’s might be the second quarter of 2024,” said Ferdon. “So earlier, I talked about the fact that CRH is going to oversee the bid and the construction piece of 1C, which is the external part. And so that’ll be a little bit of a patchwork. As they come online with their different offices, then we’ve got to start trying to figure out what comes first. The paving, the landscaping, the utilities — so the paving and the utilities will probably happen at the same time. Landscaping, obviously, would go in at the very end. … I think their (CRH’s) timeline is about the first or second quarter of 2024, so we should be getting everything complete about the same time. And so we’ll start working external piece of 1C hopefully later this year.”