0
Votes

Fort Belvoir To Enter Planned Community Development World

Fort Belvoir just began the process to build 2,569 new residences. It is part of the military's goal to create true communities.

Known as Residential Communities Initiative [RCI], the program is designed to "not just build houses, but to build communities," according to Aimee Sheriff, project coordinator, Military District of Washington.

Based on the concept of a partnership between private industry and the military, RCI creates communities within the military bases. The lynch pin of the program is what is being called the "Developer Partner," Sheriff explained.

"In the past our housing construction projects have not necessarily been a win-win situation because we did not have a true partnership. This time I think we've done it right," she said .

Fort Belvoir's initiative is part of the Virginia group of bases which also includes Forts Hamilton, Eustis, and Monroe, along with the Walter Reed Hospital complex. The first solicitation for bids, known as Request For Qualification, was issued Feb. 1.

The selection process takes several months, but "we hope to have a partner selected by August," Sheriff said. There are two elements of expertise required in a "partner" — construction and management.

A successful developer partner gains a 50-year contract with each base. They are responsible not only for all construction pertaining to the communities but also for their maintenance and management.

If one company does not posses both levels of expertise they are allowed to partner with another. A construction and property management company could join forces.

"The awarding of the contract is an elongated process," Sheriff explained. "We expect the land deals to be complete by late summer of 2003. Then the construction can get underway. Usually, the first homes are available about a year after that."

THE PLAN IS THE KEY

Central to this process is the approval of a Community Development Plan, Sheriff noted. That plan has to be approved by the military as well as Congress.

There were four pilot sites for the original RCI's. They were Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Lewis, Washington; Fort Hood, Texas; and Fort Meade, Maryland. During 2002 and 2003, 20 new initiatives will begin. Fort Belvoir is included in that number.

Thirty-four potential bidders assembled at Fort Belvoir on Jan. 17, to hear a presentation by base personnel and view that site in order to develop their bids. It was billed as an opportunity to define a new residential community while respecting military tradition.

The primary objectives were listed as integrating existing and new neighborhoods, enhancing the quality of life and bringing military housing into the 21st century. The bottom line was that the military is trying to learn how to partner.

Colonel Curt A. Weaver, Garrison Commander, noted, "Fort Belvoir is home to 19,000 employees daily. It covers 13.5 square miles and has 160 miles of roadway. It has its own hospital, fire and police departments, airport, shopping center and elementary school with 1,320 students."

He also pointed out that "environmentally sensitive zones run through the base which need to be protected." In all, Fort Belvoir is a city that needs to develop neighborhoods for its residents, not the sterile military existence of past decades.

According to Sheriff, "We will be adding to the total number of homes at Fort Belvoir. The present number is inadequate." The ultimate aim of RCI is to offer the same variety of housing offered to civilians and to create community centers within the base's territory.

As stated in their welcoming brochure to the visiting contractors on Jan. 17, "Fort Belvoir is unlike any other Army installation in the world with its diverse, modern-day mission of being a strategic sustaining base for America's Armed Forces."