Construction on the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s new campus in north St. Louis is progressing without significant delays despite the COVID-19 pandemic, said Sue Pollmann, program director for the Next NGA West. The building is slated for completion in 2023, with IT installation in 2024 and a move-in date of 2025.
Pollmann said circumstances have helped keep facility construction on-track during the pandemic.
“We’re still in design, and the construction work right now is outdoors and not contained inside a building,” Pollmann said. Public health experts have said the threat of virus transmission is reduced outdoors.
Pollmann said both NGA employees and NGA’s partner organizations are taking precautions to avoid transmission of the virus.
Pollmann said that NGA has been maximizing telework opportunities to reduce the number of people working on-site in trailers, giving the people who are there “plenty of room to spread out.”
Col. William Hannan Jr., commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Kansas City District, said that the Corps of Engineers, which is managing the construction of NGA’s new campus on behalf of NGA, and its construction partners are taking “deliberate measures to keep our workforce safe and continue construction to the best of our ability in this environment.”
Jeff Boyer, vice president of operations for McCarthy Building Company, said COVID-19 is “on everyone’s mind.” McCarthy is part of the facility’s design-build team, along with HITT Contracting.
“We’ve had to make some changes on how we’ve worked,” he said. “The focus has been surrounding the safety and health of employees, subcontractors and the community. We’re following CDC and state and local health officials’ guidelines. There is additional sanitizing on-site, and we follow social distancing and use face masks and face covering when social distancing is not achievable.”
Boyer said that with the work being done currently, there is a low density of workers on-site, often using large machinery, and that social-distancing naturally occurs.
Michael Pranger, vice president of operations for Castle Contracting, which is performing the grading and utilities work, said that because the site work provides natural spacing, his team hasn’t seen an impact to their work. “We’re making sure we’re providing people the necessary PPE [personal protective equipment] to feel comfortable doing their job,” he said.
Boyer said work on the site the past few months has been primarily grading and mapping and installation of site utilities, such as water, electrical and sewers. Boyer said the team has moved approximately 850,000 cubic yards of dirt to prepare the site. “That’s enough to fill [St. Louis Cardinals’ baseball] Busch Stadium one and a half times over,” he said.
Boyer said work on the foundation is scheduled to begin in June.
Pollmann said that she’s very excited to be at a stage where progress will be visible.
“We can actually see the earth-moving going on at the site, the access control point is taking shape, soon there will be a formal gate where workers will enter and be screened,” she said. “It’s very exciting after years of defining requirements, contracting work and design, that we’re now at the point where people can literally see things happening.”
COVID-19 also has not delayed the hiring of contractors and subcontractors, said Boyer. He said that McCarthy-HITT is placing “a heavy emphasis on small businesses and minority- and women-owned businesses to help us meet goals for the project.”
The NGA campus’ construction goals are to include 25 percent minority-owned and 5 percent woman-owned businesses for subcontractor participation; and 15 percent minority and greater than 5 percent female for the individual workforce participation.
Hannan said that attracting a qualified workforce for the construction of the facility is imperative for the project. “That’s how they are successful,” he said.
He said the Corps of Engineers and its partners have hosted four construction job fairs in St. Louis to attract some of that workforce, and there will be plans for more. “As you continue to see those fairs, come on out, see what’s available,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity in our region.”