FORT LEE, Va. - The Army’s long-time investment in privatize housing here is about to bear some new fruit with the planned demolition of a cluster of outdated family quarters in Jefferson Terrace to make room for 34 modern replacement units.
Stage-one teardown for the $15 million project began a few weeks ago and the rebuild is expected to be completed by September 2019, said Albert Williams, Housing Division chief in the Directorate of Public Works. He also noted there is a celebratory aspect to the project’s approval.
“This is a very good end to a long process,” said Williams. “We started the discussion about this rebuild-reconstruction of Jefferson Terrace in 2012 ... Through perseverance and a lot of legal issues, we finally got the approval at the beginning of this year to move forward. In my opinion, it’s a culmination of good teamwork on the Army side, the privatized partner side and the staff here in not giving up just because they heard ‘No’ the first time.”
The new units – 12 single homes designated for field-grade officers and 11 duplexes – will be built on Ardennes, St. Lo and Normandy roads near Battle Drive. They will replace quarters constructed between the late 1950s to early 1960s and increase officer housing by roughly 25 percent; necessary to accommodate changes in assigned personnel, said Williams.
“Fort Lee Family Housing has 126 designated officer quarters (out of 1474 units),” he said. “When we made plans back in 2007, we had the 49th (Quartermaster Group) here, which was a large enlisted contingency. It made sense to have more enlisted homes than those for officers. Once the 49th deactivated in 2012, the demographics changed significantly, so now we have a larger contingency of officers.”
Eight of the new units will be designated for senior enlisted military members, Williams elaborated.
The homes – to be built by Eagle Construction of Va., out of Glen Allen – will feature open floor plans, luxury vinyl tile flooring and two-car garages. They will be similar in appearance and size to those located on Trenton and New York drives in the Washington Grove neighborhood sitting adjacent to the A Avenue gate, said Williams.
“The plan is to make the new residents feel the same as those who are living in Washington Grove,” he said, “because what we are doing is developing an officer enclave within Jefferson Terrace.”
The homes scheduled for demolition are the oldest on the installation. There are 182 newer homes in the neighborhood that were completed in 2007-‘08, said Wendy Hunter, the installation’s Residential Communities Initiative property management liaison.
Some of the newer homes in Jefferson Terrace were funded under RCI – the Army’s public-private partnership formed to improve housing and its availability. It was established in 1998 at Fort Carson, Colo., and is now divided into 34 projects at 44 installations.
Fort Lee began its RCI program in 2007 with the demolition and replacement housing in the Madison Park neighborhood located near the Child and Youth Services complex.
Among RCI’s most distinguishing features is the means by which new housing and renovation and maintenance costs are funded. The bankroll for such projects is not generated by external sources but through RCI’s reinvestment account.
“The bottom line is the Soldier’s basic allowance for housing is what funded the Jefferson Terrace rebuild,” said Williams. “There are no military construction dollars or private loans funding these projects. We have amassed enough money in the reinvestment accounts over the last 11 years to fund the current redesign.”
Prior to RCI, military members living in installation housing were not paid BAH and upkeep needs were met through a somewhat unreliable funding process that delayed required maintenance and was slow to support new requirements. RCI was meant to remedy those problems.
“The model for most RCI projects is to get everything right during the initial development periods, save our money for about 25-30 years, then go in and do renovations,” said Williams. “We’re in year 11, and we’re doing a whole-home reconstruction. In year 13, we’re looking to do whole-community renovations. We are almost 20 years ahead of the curve of most other projects.”
The availability of funds for construction this early in the process can be attributed to Fort Lee’s high occupancy rates and housing management efficiencies, said Williams.
When the Jefferson Terrace structures are demolished, the Jackson Circle quarters will be the oldest on the installation at 22 years, and the remaining balance of homes were mostly built within the past 15 years. That solidifies Fort Lee’s housing portfolio as one that is contemporary and attractive, said Hunter.
“The homes here are comfortable and spacious, especially the newer ones,” she boasted.
RCI is the best means to ensure military members are afforded the best housing options, said Hunter. It has revolutionized family housing because, unlike in the past, the funding stream is dedicated and cannot be directed elsewhere. This ultimately benefits families and positively impacts their quality of life, she added.