Caring for Clients Against All Odds: Winchester Logistics Park Team Delivers

We will stop at nothing to truly care for our clients and ensure their buildings meet or exceed their expectations. Case in point: Winchester Logistics Park in Canal Winchester, Ohio, near Columbus.

On a 70-acre site, we developed, designed and constructed two speculative industrial buildings, totaling more than 814,000 square feet. It was a joint venture project with New York-based AIG Global Real Estate (AIG). So, for all intents and purposes, AIG was our client.

While we've completed several projects with AIG in other markets, this was our Indianapolis team's first project with AIG.

“We wanted to fully understand the client and their expectations," said Mike Silver, Project Manager​. “First, we used a framework we call the Opus Client Experience to understand their wants and needs, identify opportunities to delight them and align our resources with the priorities they most value. Then we gathered as much information as we could from Opus colleagues who completed successful projects with AIG in other markets and made every effort to replicate them."

And they did.

The team completed the shell building as promised and two weeks ahead of schedule in fall 2020. Since that time, AIG has expressed interest in working with our Indianapolis team again – a testament to the success of their project.

Getting the project to the finish line ahead of schedule was not without its challenges, however.

Critical Thinking for Creative Solutions

Like many construction projects, there were obstacles that required critical thinking to avoid schedule delays. Our team collaborated with AIG to ensure the solutions met with their approval.

At this site, the soil required substantial stabilization to support the buildings. While this isn't unusual, doing the required earthwork during one of the wettest winter on record wasn't. And, of course, we had an aggressive schedule and budget requirements to meet.

“In extremely wet conditions, our engineers needed to find a way stabilize the soil in the most cost-effective manner possible," said Mike. “We could have gone down deep with lime, which dries out the soil and prevents collapsing, but that was cost prohibitive. Instead, they developed a plan using a combination of lime and cement to cap or bridge the soil in certain areas. It solved a complex problem and was a great example of value engineering to optimize value for the client. AIG also appreciated a clear and concise allocation chart I created that detailed progress and cost milestones along the way."

A creative solution for stormwater management was also needed to keep the project moving and on schedule.

An existing pond ran through the two proposed building pads and was part of the storm detention system for the neighboring mall. That pond had to be replaced with a new pond. And this had to be done simultaneously to maintain the functionality of the storm system for the mall.

Superintendent Don Vonderwell, an Ohio State University graduate with 25 years of field experience, devised the solution. They excavated the new pond to the inlet elevation while filling in the existing pond to the discharge pipe elevation, allowing one pond to maintain the function of the storm detention system at any given time. Once the new storm lines were tied in, it was simply a matter of completing the fill and excavation of the ponds.

“All of this was done concurrently, which required a tremendous amount of phasing and creativity," said Mike.

Another potential schedule disruption was frozen dirt. Frozen dirt is difficult to compact. During the winter, excavation contractors will typically layer and compact 12 inches of dirt per day. The next day they will scrape about four inches of frozen dirt off the top and start all over again, adding and scraping each day until the pads are up to elevation.

With an aggressive schedule to meet, that approach wasn't fast enough. He arranged with the excavation subcontractor to operate consecutive 10-hour shifts over the course of two weeks. Because the dirt was constantly being moved, the frost didn't have time to set in. This shaved considerable time off the schedule.

“AIG quickly picked up on the fact that there's no stopping Don," said Mike. “When issues like wet conditions or utility concerns prevent construction on one side of the site, he promptly moves all of his crews and their equipment to the other side. He wastes no time. That's how he's wired."

“If I can't go left, I'll go right," said Don. “If I can't go up, I'll go down. If I can't go down, I'll go straight through it. That's always been my philosophy."

“This project threw us some curveballs, but we never missed a beat," Don continued. "I joked that we were expecting a zombie apocalypse and Godzilla to show up next, and we were ready for both of them."

Little Details & Playful Humor

Due to the pandemic and travel complications, site visits were limited for AIG. The on-site team offered virtual live tours and provided aerial imagery so AIG could monitor progress. While that kind of client courtesy is typical for us, it's the little unexpected details that demonstrate how much we care.

Like muck boots.

Amidst one of the wettest winter on record, conditions at the site were often muddy.

“It seemed like every time the AIG reps came to walk the site, it had been raining for two days straight before they arrived," said Don. “It's no fun cleaning several pounds of mud off your shoes before boarding an airplane."

Thinking ahead, Don asked what size shoes they wore so he could buy muck boots for them. Two of them wore size 14 boots, which are next to impossible to find in muck boots. But he was determined and drove around to three different stores to find them. Without a doubt, this gesture of kindness was appreciated.

Throughout the project, the rapport shared by Opus and AIG teams was both professional and lighthearted.

According to Don, “There's nothing that says you can't have fun on a job. We work hard and play hard – it's a balancing act. These jobs can be stressful at times and it always helps to lighten the mood a bit."

Quite often that's exactly what he does.

“Early on, we recognized our main contacts at AIG had a good sense of humor," he said. “So, in addition to posting the obligatory 'no trespassing' signs around the ponds, we found a big, seven-foot, inflatable alligator and floated him out there."

“AIG had drone footage taken, which picked that bright green alligator up from 400 feet. They sent us a zoomed in image and circled the alligator in red. They wanted to know what on earth it was. I told them it's our guard alligator to keep people away from the ponds. They laughed and laughed. Our construction crews got a chuckle out of it too. Humor does a great deal to lift peoples' spirits psychologically."

“One of the most important aspects of my job as a Superintendent is helping clients navigate aspects of the construction process they may not be familiar with. I think it's equally important to understand them as people and connect with them as human beings. Isn't that really what we all want?"​


Our associates take care of clients by ensuring the buildings we design and construct meet all of their requirements. Caring for clients, on the other hand, involves a willingness to go beyond what's expected to truly engage and show sincere concern for the client, their experience and their success. Read more stories of our associates Truly Caring for Clients.