FORT LEE, Va. – A ribbon-cutting here Friday marked the return of 40 newly renovated homes to the installation’s privatized family housing inventory.
Ceremony attendees included Maj. Gen. Mark T. Simerly, Combined Arms Support Command and Fort Lee commanding general; Col. Karen L. Watson, garrison commander; Jason Frenz, vice president of development for Hunt Military Communities; Nancy Goodman, HMC director of operations; and other special guests.
Phase one completion of the Harrison Villa project “is the latest step forward in a two-year, $27 million effort that will bring the oldest military family homes in the Fort Lee community up to modern standards with upgraded amenities and lower maintenance costs,” summarized Installation Housing Office Director Al Williams in his introductory remarks.
He encouraged the audience to “think about the significance” of the moment. “[It’s] fulfillment of the Army’s promise to provide a quality of life for service members and their families that is commensurate with their honorable and patriotic decision to serve in our U.S. Armed Forces,” he said.
Frenz provided a big-picture perspective of the HMC/Fort Lee partnership since 2007 in his remarks.
“In the first six years, we built 744 homes at Fort Lee,” he shared. “In 2018, we started the Jefferson Terrace project where we [replaced] 34 homes built in the 1950s. … We then moved on to Jackson Circle and its 174 renovations which we concluded late last year. … Those homes were built in the mid-to-late ‘90s. Now we stand here in Harrison Villa with 270 homes we started renovating back in March.”
The result when everything is completed, he summarized, is 444 renovations and 34 new home builds in a six year period at a cost of over $60 million.
“That’s remarkable and it speaks volumes about the great partnership Hunt has with Fort Lee,” Frenz said. “I’ve been in the military housing business for 15 years and have dealt with 20 different installations [and all services]. Bar none, this truly is the best partnership I’ve experienced. It’s how you get $60 million dollars’ worth of work done over a five-to-six-year period. That’s how you have no houses older than 2002 in this community that have not been renovated. That’s where we stand today.”
Watson also talked about the partnership, saying it kept Fort Lee out of the harshest spotlight of the military housing crisis that erupted a few years ago.
“It’s not just the renovations,” she commented. “That’s great of course; they’re getting after it and making sure the homes are new and modern. Beyond that, it’s the maintenance, the work orders, the customer service, the treatment that our residents get. It’s just been phenomenal.”
During the Jackson Circle Walking Town Hall conducted July 7, residents voiced concerns about recently announced security gate changes, but had no complaints about their homes, the colonel noted.
“It reflects the fantastic work that has been done by the Hunt team for our communities, and I know we’re going to see the same thing when we look inside this home,” Watson said. “It comes down to what our Soldiers and their families will be living in and improving their quality of life. I’m glad were able to commemorate this and not just have folks move in without taking the time to recognize what has been done. These moments allow us to recognize the great work and the great partnerships we have here on Fort Lee.”
The commanding general underscored the moment’s significance from a “People First” and Army Readiness perspective. Taking care of military members and families at the Sustainment Center of Excellence is a top priority, he said. The installation’s vision from a housing and quality of life standpoint is to make Fort Lee the “assignment of choice” for military personnel.
“I’m looking forward to hearing from the first family that moves into these quarters,” Simerly said. “I’m sure it’s going to be very positive because what we’re witnessing is really a great news story overall, and it is just one chapter in the great story of Fort Lee. This is part of change. This is part of progress. This is part of moving forward here in the community. I’m proud to say I’m a Fort Lee resident and a customer of Fort Lee Family Housing.”
After the ribbon-cutting, the dignitaries filed inside the home to check out the work that had been done. New vinyl flooring with a dark wood finish will be easy to clean, noted Matt Forney, senior project manager for Hunt, who briefed the command team. A wall was removed between the living room and kitchen, creating a brighter open-concept design. Appliances and cupboards have been replaced, and all bathrooms remodeled. “Behind the scenes” upgrades outlined by Forney include a complete cleaning of all ductwork.
The Harrison Villa project will continue well into next year. According to a site supervisor with company doing the work – Paragon Construction – an average of four units per week can be completed by their renovation team, which can be as many as 40 individuals simultaneously working on a home at a time.