Walsh Construction Olson Pavilion Project

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|Jul 3|magazine11 min read

Founded in 1898, Walsh Construction is a family-owned and operated Chicago-based general contracting, construction management and design-build firm.  The firm has extensive expertise in a wide variety of building, civil and transportation sectors including renovation, senior living, high-rise apartments, condominiums, affordable housing, educational facilities, warehouse/distribution facilities, athletic facilities, correctional facilities, office, design-build, wastewater and water treatment plants, rapid transit, highway, bridgework and more. 

For over 115 years, Walsh Construction has built and maintained a strong base of repeat clients through its commitment to quality, craftsmanship, and delivery of projects in a timely manner. Recognized as one of the nation’s top 20 contractors, these values have never been more evident than Walsh’s latest project: the Olson Pavilion project at Lutheran Home in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

Upgrading quality of life

Since 1892, Lutheran Home has provided short-term rehabilitation, residential health care, in-home services, adult day care services and child care.

With the help of Walsh Construction, the campus’ skilled nursing facility, Olson Pavilion, is undergoing an extensive renovation and addition to provide the latest in senior care. 

The project aims to upgrade the existing 127,000-square foot facility along with adding 22,000sf of new space to Olson which includes reconfiguring of 252 rooms down to 162 private rooms with private baths. The new 83,000 sf short-term rehabilitation facility known as MyRehab Center, which opened in July 2014, is a 78 private room addition that accommodates expanded resident wellness and therapy programming.

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The first phase of construction, which commenced in October 2012, included the addition of 115 parking spaces on the east side of campus, as well as the construction of the three story rehab facility off the existing Olson building.

For Walsh, one of main challenges of the project is the fact the campus remains open and operational during construction. 

“This is a very active campus with people coming and going at all times, so it requires special attention,” said Kevin Varrone, project manager.

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“The project team spent a lot of time with the facilities director and staff coordinating construction and facility operations on a daily basis. The goal was to minimize disruptions on the campus as much as possible. We wanted to ensure day-to-day living and safety of the resident’s wasn’t compromised during the renovations.”

The relocation of residents into completed sections was just one challenging component faced by Lutheran Life Community and Walsh Construction.

According to Varrone, the project presents a specialized work environment but it’s nothing new for Walsh.

“We’ve been working on active campuses for years now and they all have different challenges and unique features. We’ve done a couple projects similar to this in the past--going in and moving belongings out of the rooms. The one thing that remains consistent is providing the highest quality of life for the people here,” said Varrone. 

Phase two and three consist of demolition and renovation of the existing Olson Pavilion. Completion of the project is expected in April 2016.

Unique approach

Another obstacle Walsh needed to address was the location of the project and putting neighborhood residents to ease. Lutheran Home is situated in a residential area, and many neighbors were concerned about the anticipated work, including construction traffic and noise levels.

“From the very beginning we were very active with the community.  We [the owner and Walsh] would have quarterly neighborhood meetings with residents to allow them insight into what’s going on,” said Varrone.

According to Project Director Eric Larsen, Walsh has worked extensively with the community to help keep them informed with the project and put an ease to their concerns.

“When we work in neighborhoods or dense areas, we realize we’re guests. We understand and respect the fabric of each neighborhood and strive to minimize the impact of their daily routine. Unfortunately, construction is a necessary evil but we spend a lot of time with residents to coordinate and make the process less disruptive on their daily lives.  Communication has been a big part of this project.”

Keeping it in the family

Walsh Construction is currently in its fourth generation operating the company as a family business. With over 6,000 employees, the company treats everyone like family and strives to keep everyone safe.

“We’re not just employees, we’re family, and safety is the upmost importance,” said Larsen. “Our mission is to make sure everyone goes home from work safe and returns to their families. It’s part of our mission statement.”

According to Varrone, the lion's share of employees embrace the family bond and spend the majority of their entire careers with Walsh.

“At Walsh Construction, it’s not just a job--it’s a career. Our goal for employees is to help them feel valued and ensure we take the necessary steps to put them in a position to succeed.”

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