FORT BLISS, Texas - Growth is quickly peering over the horizon for not only Fort Bliss, but for its facilities, as well.

The Army & Air Force Exchange Services introduced two new buildings with seven stores, as part of the Lifestyle Center at Freedom Crossing, Dec. 18, in a kick-off celebration.

"This is not just a shopping center; it's a way of life for our families at Bliss," said Paula Gunderson, AAFES general manager.

Freedom Crossing at Fort Bliss will serve as an open-air shopping center for the more than 127,000 active duty, retirees and Bliss families. The seven stores currently open include a Paul Mitchell hair salon; Class Six, with the largest wine collection in El Paso; laundry and dry cleaning center; optometry care and optical care; UPS center and a 28-chair barber shop, which is the largest in the continental U.S.

Gunderson said 50 percent of the construction is finished with approximately 273 more days of construction to go before the final unveiling in fall 2010.

Additionally, this $100-plus million project will create 900 jobs for Fort Bliss and the El Paso community, with the tax revenue going back to the city.

"Our mission [at AAFES] is to support the military wherever they go and provide quality merchandize and services," said Gunderson.

Approximately 100 people were in attendance in support of the AAFES seven store opening, including Col. Edward Manning, garrison commander.

"It's excited to see these modern facilities rising up out of the desert specifically for families at Bliss," said Manning.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, various store vendors offered coupons and discounts for their services while Santa Claus arrived in style on a white mustang convertible.

The next phase, introducing the new and improved food court featuring Starbucks, Burger King and Subway, is expected to be completed in March; and the following phase, which will transport all the merchandize to the new Post Exchange, will occur in May.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16