Leader Blues

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

TOP STORY >> Housing makeover: Air base modernizing

BY SARA GREENE
Leader staff writer

IN SHORT:A new neighborhood town hall is the center of a planned housing development, offering a taste of modern amenities.

Signs of a massive housing construction boom at Little Rock Air Force Base are found along Arkan-sas Boulevard and Iowa Circle, where a $1.2 million town hall has just opened.

The town hall will anchor four newly built or remodeled housing areas for enlisted personnel as part of a project that will cost more than $400 million when it is completed in nine years.

The town hall, which opened for base residents last week as the center of family housing on the base, has the look and the amenities of a prosperous suburban home: Attractive, spacious and up-to-date with modern furniture, appliances, computers and more.

Much of the new housing will have the same modern appearance, built from the ground up, as old houses are demolished or old ones are completely remodeled.

Plans call for 84 new homes to be completed this year, with 384 more homes to be built 2015.

“Little Rock Family Housing elected to build this facility first because it, unlike new homes, provides an immediate benefit to all of our residents,” said James T. (Tom) Brockway, project director.

Little Rock Family Housing is part of American Eagle Com-munities, the company now in charge of base housing.
“The town hall has already hosted a retirement ceremony and a dinner. We look forward to hosting wedding showers, anniversary dinners, baby showers and birthday parties,” Brockway said.

Started last May, the 7,018-square-foot town hall is completely opposite of the flat-roofed, efficient and unexceptional buildings military families have grown to expect. The inviting building looks like a sprawling house complete with slate-colored vinyl siding, gabled roof and bricked entryway. The inside of the building is decorated in a complementary color scheme of beige, taupe accented with gold and earth tones.

“The town hall has something for everyone,” said Cathy Living-ston, community coordinator. She said more than 160 people have toured the building in addition to the events that have been held there.

The town hall has three meeting rooms, a cyber café with five computers and a media room with a 55-inch high definition television.

There is an exercise room done in bright blue-green and a lemonade yellow playroom where parents can exercise and watch their children all at the same time.

Outside, there are basketball and volleyball courts, a junior Olympic swimming pool and Brockway’s favorite part of the new facility, a playground equipped with a sprayground-- a water play area featuring spraying fountains. All of these features are free to residents during normal business hours, and can be reserved for private parties.

“My children have been fortunate to play in these types of fountain areas at other assignments in Colorado and South Carolina and I thought it would be a wonderful addition to our facility, particularly when paired with the playground that is immediately adjacent to the fountains,” Brockway said.

A grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony for the town hall is scheduled for March 13.

In addition to the town hall, there will be four smaller neighborhood centers constructed as well.

The housing areas are being named to foster a sense of community. These neighborhoods will be named Lakeview Estates in the west; Ridgecrest in the south and Meadow Wood in the east.

American Eagle’s project is one and a half years into a seven-year building cycle that will feature 468 new homes and 732 renovated homes for Little Rock Air Force Base families. The new houses are at least 1,700 square feet and have three bedrooms, says Brockway.

The homes feature a master bedroom suite with a walk-in closet and private bath.

The secondary bedrooms share a single bath and, in the four-bedroom model, there is an additional half bath.

The homes feature laundry rooms, with a laundry sink, space for a freezer, exterior storage, two car garages, a storm safe room, carpeted living areas and high-speed Internet connections.

Unlike the existing homes, built in the 1950s and 1960s—before families gathered around the television set, these homes will have great rooms, home offices as well as being energy efficient.

The renovated homes will feature the same products that are in the new homes with upgraded amenities such as new appliances, renovated kitchens and baths, high speed Internet access and carpeted living areas as well as unseen improvements like telephone and cable outlets in every room and upgraded electrical systems.

The new homes being constructed at the corner of Minnesota Circle and Texas Avenue are expected to be completed in May.
American Eagle Communities submitted the winning bid to buy the houses—but not the land—to raze and rebuild existing homes and remodel another 732, managing the houses and collecting the rents. Eventually there will be 1,200 housing units.

The initial development contract of $111 million for Little Rock Air Force Base also included a 50-year operating agreement valued at more than $400 million. American Eagle is responsible for housing upkeep and maintenance for the duration of the agreement, in addition to managing the housing program for the base.

“The builder is using the three prototype homes as ‘proof of concept’ homes that allow Airmen to review the floor plans, materials and the workmanship of the selected tradesmen,” Brockway said.

“We are introducing panelized, steel framing in our new units,” Brockway said.

“The steel framing panels allow us to build new homes faster, lower our insurance costs, provide a fail-safe barrier to termite damage all at the same cost of traditional wood construction,” Brockway explained.

Tech. Sgt. Arlo Taylor of the 314th Airlift Wing public affairs wing contributed to this article.