LONGARE, Italy – Last fall, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army Garrison Italy and other partners and members of the local community here celebrated the completion of a new widened Via dei Martinelli roadway benefiting Soldiers using the nearby Longare installation as well as members of the surrounding community.
The project was overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District and as a project completed entirely off the nearby installation at Longare, it required a great deal of support from Europe District’s Real Estate Division and their nearby Italy Real Estate Field Office.
“The Italy Real Estate Field Office team got the real estate agreement with the city and the underlying real estate agreement gave us the authority to spend money on the project and outlined that the city was responsible for the acquisition of the footprint for the project which widened the existing road,” said Italy Real Estate Field Office Chief Mark Harkison.
Europe District’s Real Estate Division provides support directly to projects like the Via dei Martinelli widening effort, but their mission goes well beyond individual U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction projects. Their team actually provides key real estate support to all U.S. Army forces stationed and operating in the European theater.
“Europe District’s Real Estate Division acquires, manages and releases and disposes of real estate interests - like leases, licenses, and international agreements - for U.S. Army forces in Europe,” said Europe District Real Estate Division Chief Anne Kosel. “We have six real estate offices in three countries responsible for approximately 1,700 contract requirements in support of our partners in Europe.”
This includes managing the real estate agreements called consignments, which are the actual agreements between host nation partners and the United States that allow for enduring bases in foreign countries like Italy and Germany.
“The land we’re sitting on, the underlying landowner is the Italian Ministry of Defense and the consignment is the document that gives control from the MoD to the U.S. government so we can do what we need to with this base,” Harkison said while on Caserma Ederle, part of U.S. Army Garrison Italy in the Vicenza area.
In addition to managing those consignment agreements for the U.S. Army Garrisons, Europe District’s real estate team also manages residential and commercial leases for U.S. forces like housing communities for Soldiers and their families or warehouses or office space needed to support various missions.
This can range from managing leasing of property and housing for off-post housing for general flag officer quarters associated with U.S. Army Garrison Benelux to acquiring space at ports and airports in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy in support of the movement of U.S. personnel, official and personal mail, household goods and personally owned vehicle shipments.
Another way Europe District’s real estate team helps ensure housing is available for Soldiers and their families is through innovative build-to-lease programs like the one where construction is underway on more than 100 homes for Soldiers and their families off-post at U.S. Army Garrison Italy. Through programs like this one, private builders build housing off-post designed specifically for Soldiers and their families through agreements with the Army. In doing so, the builders are offered certain guarantees of tenants for a period of time after construction as long as the properties are properly maintained and continue to meet agreed upon standards.
The popular housing for Soldiers and their families in the Netzaberg community associated with U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria in Germany is an example of this type of program.
“We’re proud to be able to work closely with our partners at U.S. Army Garrisons and Installation Management Command to find and secure housing opportunities for our Soldiers and their families when the need arises,” said Europe District Real Estate Chief Anne Kosel.
In addition to reinforcing the availability of housing for Soldiers and families, Europe District’s Real Estate Division supports any additional land or building space requirements the U.S. Army may need throughout Europe. The bulk of that work is in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy, but can be in other countries depending on the dynamic needs of the Army and in recent years has included acquiring and managing real estate leases for office space, other commercial space and housing in Romania, Bulgaria and Poland for example.
Projects like these and working across several international borders to support the Army’s wide range of real estate needs in Europe can bring unique challenges.
“It really is quite different when you come from the states where U.S. law governs everything,” Kosel said. “Every country we operate in has different laws, customs and procedures. It is important to recognize, understand and appreciate those unique aspects in order to facilitate negotiations and reach agreement on contract terms and conditions. Sometimes what works in Italy in their style, doesn’t work in Germany or in Belgium and so that’s the challenge – is really understanding the uniqueness of each location, action and negotiating partner.”
Kosel noted a big key to the real estate team’s success is their cadre of Local National personnel who bring invaluable experience to the mission while working closely with the district’s Department of Army Civilians, or DACs. Roughly half of Europe District’s real estate team is made up of Local Nationals, in contrast to the roughly one quarter of the overall Europe District workforce being made up of Local Nationals.
“We are very fortunate to have our local national workforce,” Kosel said. “As DACs come and go every so often, our local national team members remain and provide continuity, which is a key contributor to the successful delivery of our mission. They have the language skills, the knowledge of the international agreements, technical arrangements and procedures and the relationships with our Host Nation counterparts."
Kosel encouraged anyone interested in being a part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers real estate mission to consider it, saying she finds the variety and the challenges that come with the mission to be rewarding.
“I love the variety and the challenges that the geography presents, because we are working in so many different countries,” Kosel said. “No two transactions are the same, no two property owners are the same, no two countries are the same. I enjoy the challenge that variety brings.”