By Jeff Crawley, Fort Sill CannoneerNovember 24, 2010
FORT SILL, Okla. -- Fort Sill, Picerne Military Housing and community leaders broke ground Nov. 18 for construction of the Buffalo Soldier Acres Neighborhood, which will result in 432 new homes on post. The three-year project will have the first families moving into homes in January 2012, and the project is expected to be completed by late 2014, said Picerne officials.
The three- and four-bedroom homes will vary from 30 single-family houses to 402 duplex homes and range from 1,800 to 2,200 square-feet, said Tim Toohey, Picerne program director. Some homes will have one-car garages, while others will have two-car garages. The houses are in a variety of styles, and similar to those at Fort Riley, Kan. "We\'re going to deliver at a pace of six homes per month at the beginning of construction, then as many as 10 per month," Toohey said.
The homes comply with Residential Communities Initiative standards. RCI is the Army agency which overseers its privatized military housing. These standards include increased storage areas and storm shelters.
A floor plan for a senior noncommissioned officer four-bedroom home revealed such amenities as walk-in closets, a powder room and an upstairs laundry room. Other homes featured breakfast nooks, covered-porches and covered-patios.
Buffalo Soldier Acres will also feature a neighborhood center of several thousand square-feet, and include a work-out area, media center, as well as a maintenance facility for employees.
The new neighborhood will house the most underserved ranks for on-post housing -- which are E-9s, majors and lieutenant colonels, said Col. Raymond Lacey, Garrison commander. "It will be good to have the senior leaders living on the installation so they're closer to their Soldiers and can be there for them," Lacey said.
Currently, sergeants major and field grade officers have waiting lists of about one year to 18 months because Fort Sill just doesn't have that many houses for those pay grades, he said.
Lacey contrasted the housing wait lists for junior enlisted Soldiers with families, which range from immediate occupancy to about six months with a little longer times during summer, the transfer season. Housing for privates and specialists was built first at Patriot Estates in 2005.
Buffalo Soldier Acres will also house the next most underserved population: senior NCOs (E-6 through E-8); as well as company-grade officers (pay grades O-1 through O-3 and warrant officers); and mid-grade NCOs.
The new housing is a signal of the Army Family Covenant's support to Soldiers and their families, Lacey said last month at Picerne's Artillery Village razing. "We're proud to be doing that," he said.
Buffalo Soldier Acres will be a pay-grade banded neighborhood, Lacey said. "Banding means that field-grade officers will live with field-grade officers and senior NCOs will live with senior NCOs," he said.
Although there are hundreds of new homes being built on Fort Sill, it really won't affect the ratio of eligible Soldiers living on post to those living off post, which is about 18-to-82 percent, Lacey said.
That's because about 115 old houses will be demolished. Still, after Picerne's initial development period of seven years, there will be an increase to 1,728 total homes up from 1,411, Toohey said.
Buffalo Soldier Acres is the site of the former Cedar Lakes Golf Course, and bounded by Fort Sill Boulevard, Sheridan Road, Mow-Way Road and Artillery Village. It is encircled by Three-Mile Track.
Picerne has been at Fort Sill since November 2008, managing the renovation of 332 historic homes, 556 home restorations and the construction of new military housing. The Rhode Island-based company has a 50-year contract with the Army, and has also partnered at Forts Meade, Bragg, Polk, Rucker and Aberdeen Proving Ground.
The partnership with Picerne will bring world-class quarters to Fort Sill, said Maj. Gen. David Halverson, and Fort Sill Fires Center of Excellence commanding general. "This is a great adventure," he said.
About 25 members of the Lawton-Fort Sill Buffalo Soldiers 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association attended the groundbreaking for their namesake neighborhood. "I truly applaud the leadership of Fort Sill for thinking of the Buffalo Soldiers in this manner to commemorate them," said Trooper Andre Williams, local chapter president. "It means a lot to us."