By Bob ReinertOctober 17, 2008
FORT LEWIS, Wash. - Imagine a pedestrian-friendly shopping area that features national retailers, brand-name casual dining, state-of-the-art movie theaters and residences just a short walk away.
Such "shopping destinations" have become a retailing trend across the U.S., but on military installations' That's the direction in which the Army & Air Force Exchange Service intends to head in a pilot program that includes Fort Lewis.
Joe Guiffreda, vice president of the Community Development Initiative with AAFES headquarters, shared that vision in an Oct. 8 presentation to the Military Affairs Committee of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce.
"This is all about that sense of place, the amenities," Guiffreda told attendees. "Really, it addresses everybody in the family. You can have nice meal. You can go to the movies. You can shop.
"There's a tendency for people to make it a destination and an event. They spend time there. There's always a lot going on when you visit these places."
Fort Lewis is one of five military installations - Fort Bliss, Texas, Fort Carson, Colo., Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., are the others - scheduled to open "Lifestyle Centers" in the coming years. It's another example of I Corps maintaining exceptional quality-of-life programs and facilities on post for Soldiers, warriors in transition, and their families.
The Lifestyle Centers would be departures from the enclosed malls and big-box retailers that long dominated the retail sector.
"There's been an evolution," Giuffreda said. "Really, we see that we need to have a more contemporary offering - something with more amenities, more comfort."
Giuffreda said that experience becomes particularly attractive in an era of frequent deployments by service members.
"That warm, comfortable, secure place becomes more important," Giuffreda said. "Of course, from a retailer's perspective, you hope that you're encouraging frequency and also you hope that people stay longer."
The $90 million Fort Lewis Lifestyle Center is expected to occupy 500,000 square feet in the area of main post where the PX and commissary currently are located. According to Giuffreda, construction should begin in spring 2010 with projected completion by summer 2012. The center should generate approximately 1,000 jobs.
The Lifestyle Center will dovetail with a nearby "Town Center" being developed by Lewis-McChord Communities, LLC. The Town Center will feature 290 townhouse- and duplex-style units near the Lifestyle Center.
"The Town Center's going to be exciting," said Boyd Lucas, executive development manager for Equity Residential, in an accompanying presentation to the chamber on the Lewis-McChord housing initiative. "It's really a hub ... of the new Lifestyle Center."
Giuffreda pointed out that the Lifestyle Center is consistent with the AAFES mission of taking care of Soldiers.
"Really, it's about quality of life," Giuffreda said. "We believe that this is really a revitalization for Fort Lewis."
Bob Reinert is a reporter with Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.