Housing company details how renovation work will proceed at Fort Bragg
By RACHAEL RILEY | The Fayetteville Observer | Published: October 8, 2019
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — A $150 million investment into Fort Bragg housing has been in the plans for months ahead of residents voicing concerns during the past year, officials said.
On Monday, Fort Bragg officials and a representative of the installation's housing partner, Corvias, showed how one of those homes in the Pope neighborhood off Provider Circle that will serve as a beta home going forward with renovations.
The investment is not "new money" that the Army is investing into renovations, but rather funds that Corvias has generated by rent during the past 15 years of its 50-year partnership with the Army, said Greg Jackson, housing chief for Fort Bragg's Directorate of Public Works.
Corvias started its partnership to manage Fort Bragg's housing in 2003, officials said.
"It's a reinvestment by Corvias into (Fort) Bragg communities," said Heather Fuller, Corvias operations manager at Fort Bragg. "We are putting the money back into this investment, and I think because we know the commitment to the soldiers, we're trying to do better. And so that's why we're putting the money into the homes."
That investment will cover renovations of 280 homes in the Pope and Bataan/Ardennes neighborhoods to include new energy systems, electrical upgrades, eliminating vents on roofs, creating more square-footage space and bringing the homes up to current housing codes, officials said.
The home in the Pope neighborhood shown Monday was built in the 1960s and previously maintained by the Air Force before Fort Bragg's base realignment in the 2008 and 2010 time frame in which those homes became the Army's responsibility, officials said.
The home shown to the media Monday is a beta house, meaning that officials have already "gutted" it to the studs and frames and will find out what works for current housing and building codes and what needs adjustments, said Col. Phillip Sounia, Fort Bragg's garrison commander.
"Pretty much is what this is is taking it down to the skeleton, and we're rebuilding it with all the additional technologies that have evolved over the past 50 to 60 years," Sounia said.
Once problems and strengths are identified in the beta home, Sounia said, another 280 Fort Bragg homes have been identified for the renovations that will replicate the beta home.
Officials stressed that the investment was planned before residents began raising concerns about mold, lead paint and possible carbon monoxide issues in homes last year and this year.
"Again, it's a reinvestment and it's part of our development plan, and so this is an area that we've identified as a great area to start that improvement in and primarily because of the structure and the bones of this particular floor plan," Fuller said.
The renovations are expected to be complete by December 2021.
Another 160 homes with a separate $50 million investment have been identified to demolish and 95 new homes will be built, officials said.
In about year 15 of its 50-year partnership with Fort Bragg, Jackson said Corvias has already demolished and constructed more than 2,200 homes on Fort Bragg.
Homes are updated during a five-year period Jackson described as an outyear development period.
"Every five years we sit down and identify with the partners where monies have been accruing over the five-year period," he said.
The latest $50 million investment for the upcoming demolitions and rebuilds has accrued for the past five years, Jackson said.
Jackson said he expects the demolition and rebuild of homes to start in early 2020.
Officials said the renovations and demolitions will take place as homes turnover or as residents move out.
Jackson said toward the end of the projects some families might need to relocate to finish the projects.
"This is not something that they just came up with," he said. "We just made the decisions of funding it a little more quickly than they thought they would."
Although officials said the renovations were planned before resident concerns, they did take the time Monday to address those concerns.
Sounia said he thinks most of the complaints have been rectified. He said in the past, too many personnel were cut, which meant their knowledge was cut, too.
"I can tell you for the last two months I have seen Corvias make such good progress," Sounia said.
He said Fort Bragg Directorate of Public Work employees have become state home inspectors for oversight and that work orders are monitored to be addressed within 24 hours if it's a life, health or safety issues and within 48 hours for urgent issues.
"The partnership needs to remain solvent, because that's important for Army families as well," Sounia said of Corvias. "If the partnership goes under, it would be very difficult for the Army to maintain all these homes."
Fuller said "mistakes" were made, but a lesson learned in ensuring there are quality members for "both sides of the partnership."
I think when we try to save costs and cut people then it clearly lends to the customer service level as well as what can be completed," she said. "I also think when we chose to lessen our spending and didn't reinvest in some of our homes that are older than we need to take the time to do that, and that's where we're starting to do that."
Fuller said she thinks within the next 30 years that Corvias will have "touched" or updated all of Fort Bragg's 6,100 homes.