Leader Blues

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

TOP STORY >> Open house held at base

Mary Holliday-Sopko, community director for the Landings at Little Rock, shows a kitchen of a newly remodeled home on Little Rock Air Force Base.

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

The Landings at Little Rock, the reconstituted privatized housing development at Little Rock Air Force Base, is hosting an open house to show airmen and their families what most of the rehabilitated homes will look like when the entire project is finished by the end of 2011.

That’s according to Mary Holliday-Sopko, community director for the landings and herself a former Jacksonville resident and Jacksonville High School graduate. Her father was a colonel.

She left in 1982, but jumped at the opportunity to return with this project.

“It fit perfectly in my life,” she said.

Holliday-Sopko says that excluding the house opened for inspection this week, 65 units — mostly duplexes — have been completely rehabilitated, which puts the project on schedule, and are leased.

Most of the duplexes, including the one open for inspection from 8 a.m. through 6 p.m. through Friday at 150 Illinois St., are about 1,180 square feet with three bedrooms, two full bathrooms, kitchen, living room, dining room and a carport with a storage unit, according to Holliday-Sopko.

The kitchens boast all new cabinets and appliances. The kitchens, dining areas and laundry closets have vinyl floors, the living rooms, bedrooms and halls have new wall-to-wall carpet and the bathrooms kept the ceramic tiled floors and walls, but have new vanities, she said.

There is new paint throughout, new ductwork for the central heat and air, and all doors, interior or exterior, are new.

All those doors have matching hardware.

“A lot of the lake views are gone, but plenty more have country views,” she said.

The units are “pet friendly,” she said, and the rent includes utilities. An airman’s housing allowance covers the rent.

All residents have access to the Landings swimming pool, fitness center, clubhouse and business center.

Hunt-Pinnacle is rehabilitating 865 units and “we’re right on schedule,” she said. Work on 135 new homes will begin in the first quarter of next year, she said. Completed new homes include 25 that American Eagle completed before defaulting on its contract, and another 10 American Eagle had started and Hunt-Pinnacle completed, she said.

The Pentagon has undertaken a program of privatizing housing on military bases and in 2003, American Eagle Communities won an Air Force privatization contract to demolish about 500 homes, build 468 new housing units and remodel 732 at Little Rock Air Force Base.

But by May 2007, with subcontractors and suppliers unpaid and the job way behind schedule, bankers pulled the plug on the project. Only 25 homes had been completed, another 25 started and perhaps 50 concrete slabs poured.

Under pressure from the lenders and the Air Force, American Eagle on Nov. 4, 2008, signed an agreement to sell the project and three others as a bundle to Hunt-Pinnacle LLC. The others were at Patrick, Hanscom and Moody Air Force bases.

Hunt-Pinnacle has built 67,000 military housing units, and has been in the property-management business for 30 years. It manages more than 175,000 units nationwide, including 15,000 military units on 20 different installations.

The reduced scope of the project that Hunt-Pinnacle signed on for was 166 new homes and 834 remodeled units, most of them duplexes.