By Crystal Lewis Brown, Fort Jackson LeaderJanuary 15, 2009
As Fort Jackson begins a transformation aimed at improving the quality of life for its Basic Combat Training Soldiers, a similar transformation is under way for the post's permanent party personnel and their families.
Last month, a military family housing groundbreaking ceremony signaled the beginning of a 50-year privatized housing plan that officials say will ensure Fort Jackson housing occupants have the best accommodations possible.
Project Director James Harper, with the Army's privatized housing partner, Balfour Beatty Communities, said the plan consists of various phases of demolition, construction and renovations.
The first stage of the process is a five-year, $168 million project that includes the demolition of 916 units, the construction of 610 new units and renovation of the rest. Balfour Beatty acquired 1,162 homes on Fort Jackson, Harper said.
"At the end of the five years, every unit will be either new or renovated," he said. "It then becomes a cycle so the houses are constantly being renovated."
During the 50-year time frame, a house will receive several renovations, and may eventually be demolished and rebuilt.
Emma Watson, Fort Jackson Residential Communities Initiative director, said maintaining continuity is a key part of keeping families happy.
"It's important so that we can keep up with the market off post," she said. "Part of the problem is we would have a contractor come on post, build houses and leave."
Then, she said, the Army would be responsible for the upkeep of the quarters, which would be costly.
"Finding money is always a problem," she said.
The comprehensive plan factors in when renovations will be needed, preventing a money crunch later on.
"To have a 50-year plan, we know we will have housing renovated in 'X' years," said Watson. "It means (Soldiers and families) are living in housing that is equal or better than what they can find outside the gate. It means they're always living in quality housing and neighborhoods."
Although RCI has oversight of the project through its duration, Watson stressed that Balfour Beatty is responsible for the housing area.
"What we now do is make sure all of the agreements are held," she said, referring to the agreed-upon benchmarks Balfour Beatty and RCI have planned. "Balfour Beatty is the 'landlord.'"
Just as in off-post housing, said Watson, that means any concerns or requests residents have will go through the Balfour Beatty office, Watson said.
Harper said the company is taking its role as "landlord" seriously.
The new community structure will include around-the-clock maintenance service.
"If a resident wants us to come out and change a light bulb, (he or she) can put in a work order for someone to come and change the light bulb," he said.
Residents can also put away their lawnmowers and weed eaters.
"Once we took over in August, our company became responsible for everything in housing, and we tried to do a little extra for the Soldiers," Harper said.
"One of the extra things we tried to provide was landscaping," he added. "The only thing we want them to do is live in the house and be happy."
The company will also try to keep most of the existing trees intact and knock down only the trees necessary to build the new units. Built-in sprinkler systems will also help with maintaining the landscape.
Watson said the on-going beautification of housing falls in line with all of the other property changes going on at Fort Jackson.
"It follows the Army Family Covenant," she said. "Part of taking care of families is not just the medical, or MWR or the schools, it's also the housing. We're making sure that the family piece of that is there by providing good, quality housing."