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Fort Belvoir Ready To Create Communities Within

Fort Belvoir recently released it's short list of potential developers for creating the base's new housing lifestyle known as "Residential Communities Initiative (RCI)."

The concept, which is being undertaken at bases throughout the nation, is a lot more than just bricks and sticks. "It is designed to improve the quality of life for military families," said George L. Barbee, Program Manager, U.S. Army Military District of Washington.

Based on the concept of a partnership between the military and private developers, RCI creates communities within a military base. "We work together on how to lay out and design the development. It's up to the developer to build a community residents want to live in," Barbee said.

Last January, 34 developers from throughout the nation were invited to the base to be briefed on the Belvoir project. Following that a Request for Proposals was released. Six then returned to make final submissions. This will be followed by oral presentations in July with a selection set for August, according to Barbee.

ON THE SHORT list are: Clarke Pinnacle Family Communities, Bethesda, MD; J.A. Jones Community Development, Atlanta, GA; Lend Lease Actus, Kileen, TX; North American Military Housing, Oklahoma City, OK; Old Dominion Development, Annapolis, MD; and Picerne Military Housing, Warwick, RI.

Of the finalists, three are involved in similar projects at other bases. Jones at Fort Carson, Lend Lease Actus at Fort Hood, and Picerne at both Fort Meade and Fort Bragg, Barbee noted.

Final selection is expected to be announced in September with the developer partner, as they are called, to be on-board at Belvoir by the end of that month. Submission of the Community Development and Management Plan [CDMP] is scheduled for mid February 2003, according to the RCI projection.

Barbee emphasized that, "The CDMP is essential to the success of the project. It contains construction and design details, financial and legal documents, and other details including the proposal for family management services. They usually weigh between 50 and 75 pounds when assembled."

AFTER COMPLETION it is reviewed by the Department of The Army, Department of Defense, Office of Management and Budget, and finally by Congress, for consent and approval. Then the notice to proceed can be issued.

"The target date for completion is 10 years, although the partnership is good for 50 years, with a renewal after 25 years," Barbee explained. "A lot of factors go into where to start and finish the project."

The value of the Belvoir endeavor is approximately $4 billion, Barbee estimated. "It will bring jobs and business to the entire area," he assured.

"The object is to provide homes on base to those that can least afford to live off base. This is particularly true for junior enlisted personnel. But, we want the homes on base to be as good as those off base. We want quality rather than quantity," he insisted.

Presently, there are 2,700 units to be transferred to the developer. Belvoir is home to 3,070 personnel. "The Belvoir family is composed of 3.6 persons," Barbee said.

RCI IS A residential community concept. Each cluster will be built around community facilities and will contain homes at various price and size levels. There will be single family, townhouses, and apartments within each cluster.

Even though each cluster will have a neighborhood center, there will also be major facilities for various areas such as health centers, pools, and the like. Just like civilian housing developments, it will be driven by economics, Barbee noted.

The developer will own the homes and rent them to base personnel. The military will maintain ownership of the land. The legislation that created RCI does authorize some guarantees for the developer in case of base closing or other factors, according to Barbee.

Fort Belvoir's initiative is part of what is known as the Virginia Group Projects. In addition to Belvoir, it encompasses Forts Hamilton, Eustis, and Monroe, along with the Walter Reed Hospital complex, according to Aimee Sheriff, Project Coordinator, Military District of Washington.

"Each developer is not only responsible for construction but also for the maintenance and management. If one company does not possess both levels of expertise they are permitted to partner with another," Sheriff had explained earlier.

AT THE JANUARY assemblage, Colonel Curt A. Weaver, Garrison Commander, said, "Fort Belvoir serves 19,000 employees daily. It is a city with its own hospital, fire and police departments, airport, water craft, shopping center, and elementary school with 1,320 students.

"As a city it needs to develop its own neighborhoods for its residents. It also has environmentally sensitive zones that run through the base that need to be protected."

However, the upgrading of base housing is not on hold for RCI to kick in. There is a three phase renovation project underway which started in the mid-1990's, according to Marcia Kline, Chief, Information Strategies in the base's Public Affairs Office.

These projects operate under different contractors, she clarified. "The Dogue Creek Village area is now completing Phase III. It began last July and is expected to be completed by this fall," Kline said.

Dogue Village's contract was awarded by the Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, to Hankins Builders, Inc. It is a $14.6 million project to renovate 148 existing junior enlisted quarters, she noted.

"Even though these properties are being renovated they will still be part of the RCI when that begins. But, they will probably be near the end of that effort," Kline clarified.

As stated in the brochure prepared for last January's initial meeting on RCI, "Fort Belvoir is a great place to live, work and play." Barbee emphasized, "RCI done properly will increase that quality of life."