FORT LEE, Va. – Planned renovations of Harrison Villa homes was the focus of an atypical town hall event conducted Tuesday evening at the Family Housing Welcome Center on Sisisky Boulevard.
Rather than a formal briefing, organizers opted for an information table setup that allowed participants to engage in direct conversations with garrison leaders, military family housing representatives, the school liaison officer and the moving company that will assist families relocating to other homes to allow for the renovation work.
Harrison Villa is the second phase of a six-year, $60 million Hunt Military Communities effort to upgrade privatized housing across the installation. The initial Jackson Circle phase that started in August 2020 is complete, meaning 174 of Fort Lee’s oldest family homes have been brought up to modern standards. The range of work included removing walls to create a more open floor plan, new flooring throughout, additional storage space, redesigned kitchens with new Energy Star appliances, and additional improvements.
“It really looks good, and the new residents moving in are happy with it,” emphasized Jason Frenz, Hunt’s vice president of development, as he glanced at images of the Jackson Circle homes projected on a large screen in the room. Standing nearby, Community Director Charleen Harriott shared what she has heard in the way of resident feedback.
“Everyone really likes the open floor plan … and the modern updates such as the granite countertops, the new kitchen cabinets and the bathroom updates,” she offered.
Harrison Villa will be “much of the same,” with 268 homes undergoing refurbishment over the next two years. The plan this time, according to Frenz, is to complete the work in sections – starting with Cold Harbor and Hazel Grove courts – rather than the entire neighborhood simultaneously. This will allow continued occupancy in homes not yet scheduled for renovation and reduce the number of families requiring relocation elsewhere.
“We’re not quite sure yet how the construction will flow beyond the first two sections, but I can assure residents we’ll give them at least a 60-day notice of when we need them to move,” Frenz said. “Also, another advantage of not relocating everyone in Harrison Villa is that we increase the chances of having available homes on post for families to move in to and fewer of them needing to go off-base, which ideally would be nobody.”
Frenz encouraged Harrison Villa occupants to contact any resident service specialist if they have questions about the renovation project, or more specifically, the requirement to relocate. Two points that attendees of the town hall appeared to focus on is what options they have for keeping their children in the same school and, in the case of Staff Sgt. Jacob James, if his family would have help with the move.
“I’m glad to hear all the arrangements for a moving company have been made,” he said while holding up the folder of information he was provided. “I haven’t been notified that I have to relocate yet, but I’ll be ready for it when it happens.”
The Ordnance School instructor stationed here for a year admitted it’s “a real pain” having to move again, but he understands how it will benefit families for years to come.
“I’m excited to see these types of changes in the Army,” he said. “It demonstrates the steps being taken to ensure military members have good quality of life in the future.”
A fact sheet distributed at the town hall answered the question about schools. Families can submit a letter via email – firstname.lastname@example.org – explaining their need to move. Include current and new address, names and grades of children, and the relocation notice. The school will provide further instructions upon receipt of that notice.
Other points noted in the fact sheet and not yet discussed in this article include the following:
· Move out requirements – home to be returned with normal wear and tear; dirty carpet and blind damage fees waived, but there will be a charge for urine stains.
· Free moving services restricted to Tri_City area and only one move allowed; there will be no reimbursement for ditty moves.
· Fort Lee Family Housing will cover expense for fence removal and installation at a new on-post location (off-post is not included).
Another good resource for all families residing on Fort Lee is the Housing Services webpage located at home.army.mil/lee/index.php/my-fort-lee/all-services/housing-services. It includes an overview of the Tenant Bill of Rights, a point of contact listing for unresolved/critical issues, and a walk-through of the Tenant Informal Dispute Resolution Process.