WIESBADEN, Germany - Officials broke ground for the new Exchange shopping center in Hainerberg Housing Feb. 22.
"Today we take a further important step in providing support for our growing community of service members, civilians, families and retirees with arguably the most eagerly anticipated project in the entire Wiesbaden transformation process -- the new Exchange," said Col. David Carstens, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden commander, during the groundbreaking ceremony.
The new 14,600-square-foot, $35 million facility will consolidate Army and Air Force Exchange Service stores and several other agencies including banks and the USO in one location. "We'll be taking 15 facilities and combining them into one convenient location," said Col. Fredrick J. Hannah, AAFES-Europe commander.
The new Exchange will include numerous concessions, food emporiums and a large parking area, Hannah said.
"Today when our service members and their families want to buy Exchange goods and products, especially merchandise from back home, they have to go to a variety of stores spread out from Hainerberg to Mainz-Kastel," said Carstens. … "When these stores are finally consolidated into one facility in about two years, it will all be conveniently located right here in Hainerberg. It will have ample parking, and it will considerably ease the shopping challenges for members of our community."
Both commanders stressed that through consolidation and forward-thinking planning, energy use and costs will be reduced dramatically.
"It reduces the expenditures of time and fuel for service members and their families in a consolidated building," said Hannah.
Additionally, with various "green" design features and the possibility of adding solar panels after construction is completed, the Exchange will improve sustainability in the long run, they said.
"Consolidation means fewer utilities and overhead expenses; savings which the Exchange will return in part to service members and their families. Consolidation also means fewer cars on the road … yet another opportunity for us to be good neighbors," Carstens said.
Elmar Damm, from the Hessen Finance Ministry, said he was pleased to take part in the groundbreaking ceremony and praised the close working relationship between planners, builders and everyone else involved in the project. Looking back at the close ties first established between German citizens and American forces during the Berlin Airlift six decades ago, Damm said the past seven years have seen a close working relationship develop among state, city and U.S. military officials in an effort to successfully accomplish the move of U.S. Army Europe Headquarters to the city.
"This is an important step in maintaining a good relationship and in enhancing German-American friendship," Damm said. … "I assure you that future U.S. plans will continue to receive complete support from the Hessen government."
Construction on the new Exchange is expected to be completed by December 2014 with the grand opening tentatively set for spring of 2015.