By Ronald H. Toland Jr.April 20, 2009
ANSBACH, Germany -- While ongoing construction at U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach is presenting community members with challenges, the ultimate payoff will deliver big "home" improvements, according to post officials.
Most current construction sites that people navigate around are a result of sewer and roads project, but other improvements are on the way as Ansbach transforms from a once-likely-closure candidate to enduring installation, said Kurt Hofmann, garrison project manager and acting chief of engineering.
In upcoming years, Ansbach will see, just to name a few, a new fitness center, a new clinic, a townhome community complete with a new shopping center and other improvements spread across the community, he said. One of the first improvements people will see is around the Katterbach Commissary area as a long boardwalk, or "fussganger zone," is built there, Hofmann said.
"In the next six weeks, we will start the beautification projects and should be complete by August," he said. "The plan is to cover the railways in front of the commissary with removable wooden planks, all the way down to the fitness center. But we still want to have the option to use the rails in the future, so they won't be torn out -- parts of the boardwalk will be removable if the rails ever need to be used again."
Besides the boardwalk, more trees will be planted; seating areas, park benches and planters will be added; and vendor booths will be made to make a concession-like pedestrian zone with a recycling area and a gazebo.
"I imagine it to be a park-like place" said Hofmann. "A place to go and enjoy (food and beverages). Soldiers and families do not have such a place now on post ... We want Soldiers and families to like living where they are. "
Hofmann explained Ansbach initially was on the closure list and had been neglected for some time.
"Now we are an enduring and direct-report garrison, and have the resources for a better infrastructure," he said. "The garrison commander (Col. Christopher Hickey) initiated this project; we are implementing it."
Along with the beautification project, parking solutions at the commissary have been plugged in, too. It is all about community upgrading for Soldiers and families, Hofmann said.
"We want our Soldiers and families to live in a place with a nice infrastructure and get a taste of the culture -- a sense of home away from home, but with a bit of culture, too."
He said in order to make the "fussganger" design not so "boring," the planks will be staggered along the tracks so that there is not one long strip. And the planks should weather the elements for a good number of years because the wood is thick and treated.
A similar pedestrian area is currently being constructed around the Storck Barracks Post Exchange and Yellow Ribbon Room area, and an improvement around the parking area for the exchange on Bismarck is in the works with another pedestrian area.
"In that plan there is also a stroller-friendly walkway and loading zone," he said. "There will be lights, trash cans and seating so people can sit there -- sort of like the commissary, but smaller -- but it will be the same amount of parking."
Work on the commissary "fussgangerzone" is scheduled to start in mid-May and end sometime in August.
The Bismarck PX parking improvement project starts soon and ends around the middle of May, said Hofmann, who noted the start and end times are based on completion of other projects.
"We currently have 131 projects going on in the garrison simultaneously," said Hofmann. "The PX parking is not so expensive, about $100,000, and the commissary pedestrian zone project ... should be between about $250,000 and $300,000."
Hofmann asks community members to be patient and to expect a lot of construction for quite a while -- but all designed to make Ansbach "Your Army Home" and a place to be proud of, stressed Hofmann.
"Five years from now this will be a (completely) different place," he added. "Soldiers and family members will say, 'Ansbach is the nicest place' they have seen outside America and current residents will say, 'You must have been in a different Ansbach then.'"