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U.S. Forces Korea officials, Korean contractors and other dignitaries break ground on a new build-to-lease unaccompanied officers quarters at K-16 Air Base Friday. The privately built and owned barracks on base is a first for USFK.
U.S. Forces Korea officials, Korean contractors and other dignitaries break ground on a new build-to-lease unaccompanied officers quarters at K-16 Air Base Friday. The privately built and owned barracks on base is a first for USFK. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

K-16 AIR BASE, South Korea — Officials broke ground Friday on a 144-unit unaccompanied officers quarters that the Army says could be a model for how it does business in the future.

Several top officers at the ceremony said the K-16 barracks is the first build-to-lease project for U.S. Forces Korea.

USFK will lease the privately owned and built project at $3.5 million annually for up to 15 years. The lease then will be renewable for another 15 years.

The lease cost includes maintenance but not furnishings or utilities.

Based on what the military currently spends on off-base housing, officials estimate the building will save $1.7 million per year.

Each unit will include a bedroom, living room, private bathroom and laundry area, officials said.

USFK commander Gen. Leon J. LaPorte said the command fought for the building appropriation to provide living standards comparable to larger bases elsewhere.

“Servicemembers in Korea deserve the same quality of life,” he said.

Expect to see more build-to-lease housing projects at places like Camp Humphreys and Camp Walker as USFK continues to reposition its servicemembers, LaPorte said.

The new building will give soldiers more time by moving them closer to base, said Col. Ronald Stephens, Area II commander.

“Many of these soldiers commute to work every day, sometimes dealing with hours of bumper-to-bumper traffic,” Stephens said.

The build-to-lease concept was quite different from the way Korean contractors are used to doing business, said Navy Cmdr. Todd Henricks, USFK leasing officer.

The deal required a lot of explanation along with a complex legal process on the Defense Department’s side.

Congress limits Defense Department leases to 15 years, which led to including the renewability clause after the initial 15-year period.

“It’s been an eye-opening experience for both the Koreans and us,” Henricks said.

SB Sungnam, a joint venture between Seohee Construction and Baum Architects, won the $26 million building contract after a competitive bidding process ended in August.

The Army Corps of Engineers will oversee the project. The building is expected to be ready for occupancy in July 2007.

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