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Army downsizes planned base hotel

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PETERSBURG, Va. | A 15-story hotel proposed for Fort Lee has been reduced to seven stories, in part because of homeland security concerns.

The redesigned hotel, however, will still contain 1,000 rooms for military students who will report to Fort Lee every week by the thousands under a vast, $1.4 billion expansion of the base.

Pete Isaacs of the Army's Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command said Wednesday that several factors went into the design decision, including fears it could be a target because it rose so high from the flat expanse of the base.

"It's not just anti-terrorism protection," said Mr. Isaacs, special assistant to the commanding general. "It gets into access of fire and safety trucks and all that sort of stuff."

The on-base lodgings are intended to accommodate the more than 2,000 military students who will be there every day after an expansion in 2011 under the recommendations of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

The Army Ordnance School, for instance, is ending the school's nearly one-century link to Maryland. The school is moving from Aberdeen Proving Ground to Fort Lee, where a 380-acre parcel is being transformed for the school's new home at a cost of just more than $700 million.

A congressional subcommittee has delayed a decision on the Fort Lee hotel until the Department of Defense responds to dozens of questions raised by a local business group.

The Greater Tri-Cities Hospitality Coalition formed after the Army announced plans in August to build the hotel at a cost of $114 million. The coalition is made up of hoteliers, restaurateurs and retailers.

The subcommittee is seeking a range of answers from the Pentagon, including the demand for off-base rooms in the coming years.

The hotel is scheduled to be completed in 2012.

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