VICENZA, Italy — Caserma Ederle has seen a lot of change since Americans first took up residence in the 1950s — but nothing like the Army has planned over the next two decades.

A master plan — dubbed Vision 2020 — would largely transform the base, with multistory buildings and garages replacing single-story structures and most of the current road network.

“About 90 percent of the existing facilities will be demolished,” said Frank Powell, real property manager for the U.S. Army Garrison-Vicenza’s public works department.

Replacing so many buildings and so much infrastructure isn’t cheap. The plan itself took several years and about $500,000 to complete, he said.

For all the construction, “we’re looking probably at over 500 million (dollars) at this point,” Powell said.

With that level of money at play, congressional approval becomes a big factor. And though some of the current projects going up around base are seen as key parts of the plan, many other projects won’t even go into the funding request pipeline for years. And then there’s the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team’s relocation to the Dal Molin airfield. Though the local and federal governments have given their approval for the move — hoped to take place by 2012 — there are still very vocal opponents.

“Dal Molin must occur first,” Powell said.

That’s because in order to make a plan this size work, some buildings need to be torn down before others are built. The two infantry battalions currently based on Ederle will still call the base home, but the rest of the brigade, including its headquarters and some other offices, are slated to move to Dal Molin.

Relocating the Department of Defense Dependents Schools to the Villagio housing complex will also free up space, Powell said.

Maj. Gen. Frank Helmick, commander of the Southern European Task Force (Airborne) is a big supporter of the plan, and he believes local residents will appreciate most aspects of it as well.

“All future construction in the Vicenza military community includes state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly concept designs,” Helmick said. “These facilities ... will have a positive impact on the environment and the quality of life for our soldiers and families.”

Pending all the approvals and funding, the 147-acre complex would look more something like a college campus or a business park than a stereotypical U.S. military base, Powell said.

Three multistory parking garages spaced along a new perimeter road would handle virtually all traffic, meaning people would need to get around by foot or bicycle. A multistory Army and Air Force Exchange Service mall would be built next to the current commissary and would contain all or nearly all the AAFES offerings on base. Ederle can’t expand in two directions because of roads, while a prison and housing prohibit growth in other directions. And Powell said a high water table makes building basements impractical.

“That leads us to only one direction we can go … up,” Powell said.

Most of the current buildings on base here are one or two stories. Those would be replaced by a host of three- or four-story structures under the master plan.

Fewer (though taller) buildings and the elimination of most current parking and roads would leave more room for green space, Powell said. “There will be a lot more trees,” he said. And athletic fields.

The base falls far short of Army standards in that aspect currently, according to Dave Murr, director of public works. It also falls short in a number of other areas, he said, including modern facilities.

Murr said some of the buildings on base date back to the World War II era. Over the years, facilities were built as money became available.

“Requirements continued to grow and we built (buildings) as well as we could,” he said. “We plopped them down wherever we could find space, without any particular master plan in mind.”

As a result, buildings around base are often a mish-mash in materials and design. Powell said facilities in the new master plan share similar themes, with more than a few architectural tributes paid to Italian master builder Andrea Palladio. Powell admits the plan is pretty ambitious.

“To me, for the Army to support this kind of planning is very visionary and forward thinking,” he said.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for 40 years.

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