- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 3, 2005

The 146 town houses that just opened to soldiers and their families on the Fort Belvoir Army base look just like the gleaming developments popping up all across Northern Virginia, with two-car garages, modern kitchens and other amenities.

That is just what the Army wants.

Fort Belvoir yesterday displayed the first of 15 military neighborhoods to be built on base as part of a nationwide public-private partnership designed to revamp military housing.

The three-bedroom town houses, averaging 1,850 square feet of living space, might cost as much as $500,000 if they were off base, given the region’s booming real estate market.

But for Spc. Awilda Rodriguez, her husband and three children, the rental costs and utilities will be completely covered by her $1,400-per-month housing allowance.

“The girls were really excited” when they saw their new home, said Spc. Rodriguez, who is assigned to the Operational Support Airlift Agency at Fort Belvoir. “It’s big. It’s nice. It’s new.”

The new housing is part of the Army’s residential Communities Initiative, which calls for private contractors to build modern housing for soldiers at 45 Army installations across the country.

Geoffrey Prosch, an Army deputy assistant secretary for installations and environment, said improved housing for soldiers is a key part of the Army’s efforts to retain its soldiers.

“It’s exponential what happens when you provide a soldier and his family with quality housing,” Mr. Prosch said yesterday. “That soldier can keep his head in the game” if he is deployed. “This is going to allow soldiers to feel good about what they’re doing and they’re going to re-enlist.”

Mr. Prosch looked around the courtyard, with children scampering on the playground, and said the new development “reminds me of ‘Leave It to Beaver’ville. This is where I grew up in the ‘50s.”

Chris Guidi, project director for Clark Pinnacle, the private partnership that is building and managing the homes, said they are built with the needs of military families in mind.

Because so many military families relocate frequently, the homes are built with wider staircases to make moving furniture easier, Mr. Guidi said. All rooms have overhead light fixtures, so a family will have lighting even if the lamps haven’t been unpacked.

Fort Belvoir eventually plans to replace all but 170 of its 1,800 homes on base. The 170 historically significant homes will be renovated, and will be joined by about 2,000 town houses and single-family homes organized into 15 neighborhoods.

The current housing is available to the lowest ranks of enlisted soldiers. Higher-ranking enlisted and officers will be moved into newer quarters as they are built, with the goal of completing construction by 2010.

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