SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers South Pacific Division regional business director visited two key project sites at the Veterans Affairs San Diego Health Care System campus Feb. 17 in San Diego.
Cheree Peterson, who also serves as the Senior Advisory Group chairperson for the project, spoke with representatives of the Corps, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Construction and Facilities Management, and contractors. Peterson saw firsthand the progress of the Spinal Cord Injury/Community Living Center and new seven-story parking structure.
Projected to open in fall 2024, the SLI/CLC facility will provide care to veterans and active-duty personnel with spinal cord injuries and disorders who live in the San Diego and Imperial counties in California, and in Arizona and southern Nevada.
Peterson said being on site to see the work with her own eyes provided a context for her of the project that looking at photos or sitting in on a briefing can’t match, such as how tight the campus is.
“Seeing the progress and how well they’re managing it as they go through the project, it’s very enlightening and shows how committed they are to the schedule and delivering on time,” she said.
“I was here for the groundbreaking, but I hadn’t been able to come back since,” she added. “To see, particularly, the walkways and how challenging it is to manage that safely for the workers and for the patients — it’s hard to visualize that in pictures.”
Perhaps more important than getting a closeup look at the construction is talking to those on site and seeing the working relationships, she said.
“The partnership between our project manager and the [Construction and Facilities Management] senior resident engineer is impressive — it’s one of the best,” Peterson said. “I can’t speak for all the other campuses, but it’s certainly one of the best in SPD.”
Peterson added that it was the most diverse construction office she’s ever visited.
“That’s certainly a USACE goal, but for SPD in particular, it’s something we are trying to encourage and do more of – things like reaching out to local universities, trying to make sure people feel welcome once they get here so they stay – people of all ‘types and stripes,’” she said. “It’s something that is clearly going very well in this office.”
The new facility, which is replacing the current building at the campus, will be a 197,000-square-foot, four-story standalone structure. The current center is one of 25 spinal cord injury and disorder facilities at VA centers throughout the U.S. Each center has teams of experienced medical professionals trained to deal with the unique challenges that affect those with spinal cord injuries and disorders.
“One thing that really stood out was how thoughtfully the SCI was designed for different levels of care and how we’re working with them and the Paralyzed Veterans of America to make sure that it is going to be the best facility we can possibly give our veterans.
“This was also a good opportunity to see the project that is going the best for the VA-USACE partnership in all of the Corps.”