VICENZA, Italy - U.S. Army Garrison Italy celebrated its Army family housing groundbreaking on Dec. 6, 2021; a moment that signifies both the previous years of planning leading up to this day, as well as the forthcoming years of construction.
To inaugurate the Army's current largest housing investment program, five leaders - representing the American and Italian militaries and the Italian government - broke ground in front of homes that will soon be demolished.
Roberto Ciambetti, president of Italy's Veneto regional council for the European Committee of the Regions, expressed hope that the new housing will represent a "home away from home".
"I hope that your village is a new Philadelphia - the city of brotherly love - a dwelling of life, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness," Ciambetti said.
Col. Matthew Gomlak, commander of USAG Italy, recently escorted Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth through Villaggio della Pace, where she saw firsthand a 1950s-era, 937 square foot townhome. New homes, to be built in the coming years will have nearly double the size at 1,600 to 1,700 square feet.
"Quality housing for our Soldiers and their families is a priority for me. The Army designed this community to provide families larger, modern housing with new schools and community centers within walking distance for children," Wormuth said.
The $373 million Army Family Housing Construction venture will provide a total of 478 homes across Villaggio and Caserma Ederle, almost doubling the current 249 homes.
"We are very excited about the work on Villaggio and Caserma Ederle to replace outdated housing units with modern and energy efficient dwellings," Gomlak said.
It's the first time the Army will create homes for families on Caserma Ederle, the main service area for the Army community. Fifty apartment-style living spaces are being built behind the Ederle Inn, offering three-bedroom apartments available for occupancy starting January 2023.
"We're doing a lot to keep the needs of the military family in mind," said Michele Millers, USAG Italy department of public works general engineer.
Villaggio's new neighborhoods will be Italian-themed and named after prominent Italian cities like "Venezia", "Milano", "Pisa", "Roma", and "Verona". The "Verona" neighborhood will incorporate a playground and theater theme.
The courtyard-based neighborhoods will include covered parking spaces and allow community members to gather in greenspaces. As pets are part of the Army family, there will be a new dog park.
Sports and fitness areas in Villaggio's "green spine" will run between the back sides of units which will be closed to vehicular traffic. A fitness trail will hug Villaggio's perimeter, incorporating Army physical fitness test requirement stations.
Villaggio's new high school is currently under construction and valued at $31.5 million. The completion of the high school construction will consolidate all Department of Defense Education Activity schools in Vicenza on one installation.
"Investment in Soldiers and families, with both housing and support infrastructure - like the new high school - is essential to the future of our families stationed here in Italy," Gomlak said. "That focus will enable readiness for years to come as our Soldiers prepare for unforeseen contingencies in support of our Allies overseas."
The housing portion of Vicenza's AFH-C program begins construction in 2021 and is projected to conclude in 2025. The fifth and final phase of construction, including the community center, is projected to conclude in 2026.
"These new houses will be energy efficient. Solar panels will produce between 30 to 40 percent of the total energy consumption, storm water collection basins will assist with water infiltration, and each unit will have superior exterior insulations, dual pane windows, and smart thermostats," explained Wormuth. "This community will be the standard-bearer for our green construction initiatives."