Single-family homes, civilian tenants come to old Jackson Park Navy housing
By JULIANNE STANFORD | Kitsap Sun, Bremerton, Wash. | Published: January 17, 2018
BREMERTON, Wash. (Tribune News Service) — Driving along The Landings, it's evident change is afoot — with closed down roadways, dumpsters outside of vacant townhomes and piles of rubble resting next to partially demolished buildings.
The military housing complex, formerly known as Jackson Park Navy Family Housing, has gone through a slew of changes in the past five years to make the housing option more appealing to active-duty military families and even civilian renters.
"I think the stigma was previously that this was a place you wanted to avoid, and I think now it's the opposite," said Todd Hildebrand, community director. "It's a place where you want to live."
When Hunt Military Communities took over management of the property in 2014 through a public-private partnership with Navy, the complex was nearly vacant, with less than 30 percent of the available 850 units occupied with tenants, Hildebrand said.
Today, tenants occupy more than 90 percent of the available 605 units.
"The feedback I've received from people who lived here or did know about this community 10 or 15 years ago, and they come back now, they tell me that it's completely different from anything they remember," said Jennifer Hyde, community manager.
Since the company began managing the property, it's embarked on an extensive re-branding and rejuvenation campaign.
One of the biggest changes was to replace an abundance of smaller units with 26 single-family homes.
Now, where a row of dilapidated two-bedroom townhomes once stood, a new neighborhood of three- and four-bedroom single-family houses in shades of brick red, slate blue and sage green line the street with fresh grass in the front yard.
"I think the single-family homes we now offer are one of the most important changes we've made here," Hyde said.
To make room for the new houses and other improvements, more than 160 units have been demolished.
"People now have more of a feeling of living in a community, but they have their own space," Hildebrand said.
Hyde estimated it would take another six to eight months of construction to complete the last bit of work on the homes. Some are finished and have families living in them.
The new houses boast a variety of features, including ceiling fans, updated cabinetry, composite style-counter tops and wood-like flooring. Some have waterfront views of Ostrich Bay.
"We wished we could build more, but that's just kind of what we had space and funding for," Hildebrand said.
The remaining townhomes have also received vary degrees of renovation, ranging from new coats of paint to a complete rebuild.
"It's been great to see something that's been untouched since the '70s have a complete facelift inside and out, all the way down to the studs to make it livable for the families with open concepts, not the boxy feel that it was back then," Hildebrand said.
Hunt has also made changes around the community to improve the amenities available to tenants. It's added additional parking spots to ease congestion, updated roadways and sidewalks, and transformed many of the carports to garages.
"They really prefer them not for the storage, but also because people will have the ability to confine their vehicles securely when they're away, which gives them a greater sense of security rather than having them be out in the open, exposed," Hildebrand said.
The complex's full-size basketball court was resurfaced and received new hoops and bleachers. Buildings will be demolished to make way for a dog park and nature areas.
With buildings dating back to the 1960s, Hildebrand said Hunt took take extra steps to prevent the spread of environmental contaminants during the renovation and construction process.
"For some of these buildings, you have to deal with lead-based paint, asbestos, and you have to follow all of the EPA's regulations for tearing these things down," Hildebrand said.
In addition to environmental concerns, Hildebrand said construction workers had to be conscious of Jackson Park's history as the site of a former naval magazine, where munitions were stored before they were loaded and unloaded at Ostrich Bay's waterfront during World War II.
"Over the course of the renovations, demolitions and all the construction, they've really done some substantial work as far as surveying and investigating the property to verify that the areas that potentially might've had risk don't have a risk anymore," Hyde said.
No long-lost munitions were discovered during the construction process, he said.
Along with upgraded housing options at the complex, military families can expect another big change — new neighbors who are civilians.
With the takeover of military housing, the new management company decided to allow Department of Defense employees, military retirees and even unaffiliated civilians to rent housing units at the complex so it would be able to fill it to capacity.
Hyde estimated 20 percent of the complex's residents are a mix of defense employees, retirees or civilian families.
Just as with active-duty tenants, civilians can sign a six-month lease that will roll over to a month-to-month basis. While rents for military families are determined by housing allowances, civilian tenants can expect their rent to range anywhere from $1,475 to $1,975 a month for a unit, depending on the size and amenities included with each unit.
"If there's more space or garages, it'll cost more," Hyde said, noting utilities are included. Electricity is not included.
Hildebrand said serving military families is still The Landings' primary focus.
"The Navy is very staunch on that fact that this is housing for military, if there's enough demand for it and our occupancy is high enough to support that," Hildebrand said.
If the demand for military housing increases to the point where there aren't enough units, non-military tenants would be asked to vacate their unit at the end of their rental agreement based a system of priority.
"In the event that we are fully occupied and we didn't have a home to offer to active duty, anyone who is not on a lease could be asked to move out," Hyde said. "True civilians go first, then DoD employees and then retirees."
So far, Hyde said, they have not yet had to ask a civilian to vacate a unit to make room for a military family.
Hildebrand said that he felt opening up housing to civilians has had a positive impact on the community.
"I think they mesh really well," he said. "Like on Bangor, which is all military, it just has a different feel. This really has a neighborhood feel."