From Military Service to Construction Work, Illinois Veterans’ Home Project Brings Veterans Together
Illinois Veterans’ Home in Quincy, Illinois, is one of the largest and oldest veteran communities in the country, providing housing and care to more than 600 residents. As the 135-year-old community’s buildings began to age beyond repair, Illinois Veterans’ Home embarked on a capital development campus renovation project, thanks to Governor Pritzker’s Rebuild Illinois plan, to continue to provide high-quality, skilled care to veterans and their spouses.
The capital development project includes the construction of two steel framed replacement buildings – a 210-bed, 260,000-square-foot long-term care facility and an 80-room, 80,000-square-foot independent living facility – while minimizing disruptions to the community’s residents.
While working on an active campus required careful coordination of construction scheduling and deliveries, the rhythms of the job site felt familiar to some of the ironworkers.
“It’s run like a military base,” said Shane Cross, an ironworker superintendent of Local 396 in St. Louis for Hillsdale Fabricators, the steel division of Alberici, and veteran of the U.S. Navy. “Just walking on that site brought back memories with fellow veterans, people who have served their country who understand what it takes to do that on a day-to-day basis. It took me back to those years of being on a military site.”
U.S. military veterans made up 13 percent of the ironworkers involved in steel erection at the Illinois Veterans’ Home. While onsite, each veteran wore a sticker on their safety helmet representing their branch of service. Many of the ironworkers and other craft professionals built relationships with the residents who watched the buildings take shape.
“With structural steel, you see progress very quickly. If you sit there for 30 minutes to an hour, you can see a new portion of the building go up in the air,” said Austin Davis, senior project manager at Alberici, the lead contractor in the joint venture team, Veterans United Constructors. “We noticed that many of the residents were very interested in the construction and would watch from a safe distance from outside of the construction fence. We took the opportunity to engage and speak with the residents to discuss elements of construction. It was a great way to underscore the Veterans’ Home’s mission and understand the value and impact the facility will bring to the residents’ lives.”
Residents receive a monthly newsletter to give them an inside look into the work being done. Additionally, the veterans working onsite were attentive to residents and mindful of their concerns. “When we put the flag up, we made sure to have a solar light so it would always be lit,” Cross said. “It’s important to them, and this is their home. We’re the guests here.”
The Hillsdale Fabricators team, who are members of Local 853, has deep experience with SidePlate and shared their expertise on this project. SidePlate, a moment connection for joining columns and beams that is welded to a steel column in the fabrication shop, eliminates the need for braced frames, which saves on the cost and time needed to fabricate and erect braces.
The majority of the steel was fabricated in St. Louis, Missouri, by Hillsdale Fabricators. The remaining steel was fabricated by Titan Industries, a minority-owned business based in Deer Creek, Illinois. Fabrication began in January 2022 with erection for the independent living facility starting in March 2022 and for the long-term-care facility in June 2022. Final topping out occurred on January 12, 2023.
The two facilities totaled 2,900 tons of structural steel. Local 577 (Burlington, Iowa) members accounted for approximately 50 percent of the ironworkers on the job, with the other half being members of Local 396 (St. Louis). At the peak of steel erection, 44 ironworkers were on campus.
The Illinois Veterans’ Home has provided care to veterans and their spouses since opening its doors in 1886 to Civil War veterans. Referred to as “the city within the city,” the campus includes 25 buildings totaling approximately 1 million gross square feet on 210 acres. In addition to its residential facilities, the campus has its own post office, bank, assembly hall, guest house, chapel, cemetery, lake, animal park and museum.
The new long-term-care and independent living buildings will provide updated, state-of-the-art facilities designed to emphasize the resident experience through advances in care and operating efficiencies within a home-like environment. Additionally, the buildings feature a green roof to enhance energy efficiency and improve air quality and are seeking LEED Silver certification.
The independent living facility is expected to be substantially complete in fall of 2023, while the long-term-care facility is scheduled to be complete in spring of 2024.
The two new buildings were designed by HDR and constructed by Veterans United Constructors, a joint venture between Alberici and River City Contractors, LLC. The design-build project is the Illinois Capital Development Board’s largest design-build project to date.