To survive the latest round of base realignments and closures, military-centric communities will have to find ways to turn barracks and bombing ranges into something marketable
By Charles Gerena
Here is a brief overview of what happened to military installations in the Fifth District listed as major closures in previous BRAC rounds:
Cameron Station; Alexandria, Va. (1988 BRAC) — The 164-acre military installation was the home of the Defense Logistics Agency before its major activities were transferred to Fort Belvoir. It took seven years before the installation officially closed down and another year for the land to be transferred from the U.S. Army. About 63 acres went to the U.S. Department of the Interior, which transferred it to the city of Alexandria for use as parkland. The other 101 acres was purchased by a private developer for $33 million. After the U.S. Army performed an extensive clean-up of most of the property, Cameron Station was transformed into a master-planned community of condos, townhomes, single-family houses, and senior residences.
Fort Holabird; Baltimore, Md. (1995 BRAC) — This facility near the city's port served as an important motor transport and repair center for the U.S. Army during World War I and II. It later became the home of a counterintelligence school, which remained the sole military occupant when most of the post closed in the 1970s and transferred to the city of Baltimore. The property has been redeveloped into a 170-acre business park.
Fort Pickett; Nottoway County, Va. (1995 BRAC) — Most of the land of the former U.S. Army training facility is now used by the Virginia Army National Guard. The rest of the property houses Nottoway County's small business incubator, a vocational training school for Southside Virginia Community College, a research center for Virginia Tech, and numerous small businesses.
Fort Ritchie; Washington County, Md. (1995 BRAC) — Originally built in 1926 for the Maryland National Guard, this installation trained military intelligence officers during World War II and later provided communications and technology support to the U.S. Army. Individuals have rented apartment units on the mountaintop installation, while private companies have leased space in several buildings, collectively marketed as the Lakeside Corporate Center. Corporate Office Properties Trust has a contract to buy most of Fort Ritchie and build a mixed-use development, but the transaction is currently held up in court. The National Guard remains on 19 acres of the property.
Myrtle Beach Air Force Base; Myrtle Beach, S.C. (1991 BRAC) — Most of the base's 3,000-plus acres became an international airport after the base closed in 1993. In addition, a variety of firms occupy a mixed-use development called South Park Village, including Horry-Georgetown Technical College, a bakery, and a local television station. But many large-scale projects — including an arena and a golf resort/theme park — failed to materialize. Currently, Lennar Corp. plans to develop 500 acres into a residential community and a Chicago developer intends to convert 87 acres into a combination of homes and retail stores.
Charleston Naval Complex; North Charleston, S.C. (1993 BRAC) — The successful redevelopment of this 1,404-acre naval facility has been long and complicated. The U.S. Navy didn't release land for reuse until four years after the facility was closed in 1996. Since September 2000, 1,102 acres have gone to the Charleston Naval Complex Redevelopment Authority, with the last 436-acre chunk changing hands in May after some delay. By mid-August, the authority expects to have transferred 636 acres to the city of North Charleston, which plans to sell about a third of the property to Noisette Co. for use in a master-planned community. The agency also intends to transfer 466 acres to the State Ports Authority for use as a cargo terminal. Meanwhile, several large employers anticipate executing purchase options on previously leased space at the naval facility. About 253 acres were retained by several federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, NOAA, and the Coast Guard.
Naval Electronic Systems Engineering Center; St. Inigoes, Md. (1991 BRAC) — Technical centers operated by the U.S. Navy in St. Inigoes, Charleston, S.C.; Portsmouth, Va.; and Washington, D.C. were consolidated under one command in Charleston in 1993. Most of the St. Inigoes operation remains under military use, operating as an annex to Naval Air Station Patuxent River.
Naval Surface Warfare Center-White Oak; Silver Spring, Md. (1995 BRAC) — About 48 acres was taken over by the U.S. Army. The other 662 acres conveyed to the General Services Administration, which is in the process of converting it into the Federal Research Center at White Oak. The center's major tenant will be the Food and Drug Administration.
Norfolk Naval Aviation Depot; Norfolk, Va. (1993 BRAC) — This facility, which repaired F-14 Tomcats and other aircraft and components for the U.S. Navy, was part of the much larger Naval Base Norfolk when it closed. A suggestion to transform the depot into a repair and maintenance facility for civilian aircraft didn't come to fruition.
Vint Hill Farms Station; Fauquier County, Va. (1993 BRAC) — In its heyday, this facility supported the Army's signal corps and the military's intelligence activities. During World War II, a secret communications station intercepted enemy messages. Today, much of the property is being transformed into a business park and a combination of offices, retail, and residential development. So far, a variety of businesses operate there, including a local theater group, a medical laboratory, and a research facility for SAIC. In addition, the Federal Aviation Administration opened a new air traffic control center in Vint Hill in 2002.