Some 470 acres of farmland near Gate 9 on Rideout Road will be leased for private development under the Army's enhanced use leasing program. The area for lease is depicted in blue.

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Three years ago, Redstone officials were looking at the farmland near Gate 9 as a possible site for the summer concert location. They considered using an unsecure site to better accommodate concertgoers from off post. The idea has evolved into a massive plan for a research park involving Redstone Arsenal, the city of Huntsville and a private developer.

Under an existing Army program called Enhanced Use Leasing, officials hope to break ground this year on a 470-acre site for administrative buildings, educational areas and associated businesses such as restaurants.

"It's a program the Army has to take underutilized property - most of the time on the periphery of the installation - and allow private industry to utilize it and return a lease payment to the government," Joe Davis, the Garrison's director of public works, said.

The lease payments would go into an escrow account to fund projects that improve the infrastructure of Redstone Arsenal. These infrastructure improvements could include such things as replacing water lines or repaving roads. The underutilized farmland currently generates about $17,000 annually from agriculture. "We're trying to turn it into something that generates 2 to 4 million dollars (yearly) in lease income," Davis said.

Redstone keeps a priority list of its most critical projects for modernization annually. This backlog list of things to-do usually amounts to about $40 million.

"We would use that escrow account to accomplish projects on our priority list," Davis said.

Maj. Gen. Jim Myles, commander of the Aviation and Missile Command and Redstone Arsenal, recognizes the benefits of enhanced use leasing.

"EUL is a perfect example of what community teamwork can accomplish if they remain focused on our core mission at Redstone Arsenal: supporting the war fighter and defending our nation," Myles said. "I'm excited about it. I congratulate and compliment the local elected officials, especially (Huntsville mayor) Tommy Battle and his team, in the private enterprise that has partnered with the Arsenal."

Garrison commander Col. Bob Pastorelli cites the prospects for increased administrative space to support Redstone Arsenal requirements.

"We appreciate the efforts of both our local and state leaders to assist in this process as well as the developer taking charge as well as the Army leadership for approving this going forward," Pastorelli said. "We look forward to ground-breaking either late spring or early summer."

Redstone officials call enhanced use leasing a win-win-win for all three parties involved - the Arsenal, the city and the private developer, LW Redstone LLC out of Montgomery. Legislation has been introduced in the Alabama Legislature to lay the groundwork.

"There is legislation that is going to facilitate changes in the state laws on city financing of infrastructure within a city," Craig Northridge, program manager in the Directorate of Public Works, said. "To help develop the site, the city has requested changes to that. That bill is currently in Montgomery."

At last report, the bill had gone through the House committee and was sitting behind the highway bill in the Senate.

"Our expectations are to break ground in the late spring/early summer time frame for the first of the buildings," Davis said. "This really is a three-way partnership and a win-win for all between the city of Huntsville, Redstone Arsenal and the private developer, LW Redstone LLC."

After the groundbreaking, it will probably be two years before the doors open; and it will take 10-15 years until the area's complete development. The magnitude is staggering - think of the Sparkman Center times four. Sparkman is more than 1 million square feet of space. This will be closer to 4 million square feet of administrative space, representing about 50 or so buildings.

"We're working on a master plan right now for the whole area," Davis said. "Rideout Road will see some significant improvements to facilitate traffic in and out of the site."

The leased property will still belong to Redstone; it just won't be behind the fences anymore. After 75 years - a 50-year lease with a 25-year option - the lease will expire. And the entire area will revert back to Army ownership.

"We actually started out (three years ago) looking for land to relocate our concert site," Davis said. "What it has evolved into is Research Park South."

The existing Research Park, in northwest Huntsville, has run out of room. The same can be said of Redstone Arsenal.

Redstone is constructing buildings on post for the organizations moving here under base realignment and closure. But studies envision 5,500 additional contractor jobs in Huntsville to support these BRAC arrivals. With Research Park nearing capacity, those companies will have no place to relocate in Huntsville.

"What this (enhanced use leasing plan) does is provide speculative development space right outside the main gate," Davis said.

Enhanced use leasing should also help solve Redstone's space limitations. There are 1.2 million square feet of requests for space on Redstone Arsenal from either organizations on post that are expanding or those outside the gate who want to move onto Redstone. The Army Contracting Command, under the Army Materiel Command, is moving to Redstone from the Washington, D.C. area with 330 jobs. They will be placed in modular facilities - trailers - until permanent accommodations can be acquired. If EUL was in place, those contracting workers could lease space in the new research park initially until permanent space was acquired.

Other Army installations have utilized the enhanced use leasing program in the past, but this is a first for Redstone. Said Davis, "I don't know that it's been (done) by anybody else of this magnitude."

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