By Tom Lotshaw
The promise of action helped Ryan Hill ’16 decide to study construction as a student. And he’s been seeing a lot of it since graduating, working on some of the biggest projects in the booming Charlotte area.
Coming to WCU from Kannapolis for the recreation, mountains and educational opportunities, Hill planned to study natural resources but changed majors to construction management after one semester.
“I really liked the action part of construction,” Hill said. “Going out and building things, that just seemed to keep my attention a little better.”
There’s been no shortage of construction action for Hill, who works as a Charlotte-based project lead for Lithko Contracting. It’s one of the country’s largest concrete contractors with a network of local offices serving 35 states.
Hill helped supervise Lithko’s concrete work for phase one of a massive East Coast campus St. Louis-based Centene Corp., a Fortune 500 healthcare company, announced in July 2020 that it planned to develop in north Charlotte. Fully developed, the 80-acre campus would have been able to accommodate up to 6,000 Centene employees, making it one of the largest economic development projects in North Carolina history.
A dizzying photo of a construction worker at the site made the Jan. 31, 2022 cover of Engineering News-Record for its construction photo of the year contest. But with the site partially completed and planned to open this year, Centene in August announced it is backing out of plans to complete the campus.
Still, completing phase one’s concrete work was no small feat, with three large buildings and a 2,400-space parking garage, but also advanced engineering. Plans called for roughly a million square feet of structural concrete slab and carefully finished architectural concrete on all vertical elements. A “south tower” on the site features a 60-foot cantilever, or overhang, while an “east tower” has one nearly 90 feet long.
“We had 32 weeks to top out the structures, to pour the highest points of the buildings,” Hill said. To stay on track, crews had to finish about 31,000 square feet of concrete a week — an area about as large as 13 average sized U.S. homes. “We were working six days a week around the clock. We met our schedule. We beat it by about a week.”
The pandemic created additional logistical challenges. And Hill had some family action to manage along the way. His first child was born in January 2021, three months into the project. “It was a lot, for sure,” he said.
The action hasn’t slowed down in the months since Hill’s work at the Centene site.
Hill topped out an 8-story luxury apartment building in south Charlotte from September 2021 to March 2022.
This past summer, Hill was working in Uptown Charlotte, at a site between the 60-story Bank of America Corporate Center and the Bank of America Stadium where the Carolina Panthers play home football games. There, Hill and his crew were busy preparing to turn a hole in the ground into a 26-story office tower with a 7-story parking garage. “I really like it,” Hill said of working in the construction industry. “It’s a lot of work, a lot of responsibility, but a great economic and career opportunity.”