BÖBLINGEN, Germany — Plans for a new shopping center were unveiled last week as part of a long-range plan to move the brunt of Stuttgart’s military services away from congested Patch Barracks.

The 140,000 square-foot shopping center is to be built at Panzer Casern, a more rural base about five miles south of Patch.

The center would include three eateries — Popeye’s, Anthony’s and Charlie’s Steakery — as well as concessionaires, according to Lee Muslin, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service general manager for the Stuttgart area.

“It’s long overdue for the Stuttgart community,” she said.

Muslin said the shopping center will have 640 parking spaces, about twice as many as currently available for customers at two exchange stores on Patch Barracks.

While there was a groundbreaking ceremony for the shopping center Friday, construction isn’t supposed to start until the fall. The $29 million center is scheduled to open in time for the 2006 holiday shopping season, Muslin said.

Parking has long been a problem at Patch Barracks, headquarters for the U.S. European Command.

A “welcome center” was opened in February at Panzer for servicemembers who are moving into and out of the Stuttgart area, which resulted in those services being moved off of Patch.

The eventual razing of the two exchange stores on Patch also will create more parking there.

Army Sgt. Daniel Deffor, who lived for 2½ years in Stuttgart but now lives in Mannheim, said something had to be done to unclog Patch Barracks. Deffor said he would sometimes drive at Patch for 20 to 30 minutes just to find a parking spot.

“If they can take away the pressure from Patch Barracks, that’s a good thing,” Deffor said, adding that he hoped that the project wouldn’t in turn create a traffic problem at Panzer.

Like with many construction projects, some don’t like the idea of it being in their back yard or, in the case of the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe, in its front yard, which is currently a spacious grass field.

“I hit golf balls there into a net,” said Marine Sgt. Stuart McCall. “Once the [shopping center] is there I won’t be able to.”

Marine Master Sgt. Eric Gustafson said the Marines use the field for martial arts training and exercising, and that servicemembers’ children use the field for soccer and baseball.

“I’d rather it be somewhere else,” Gustafson said. “I like the tranquility of Panzer. It’s a nice little base.”

Joe Moscone — the chief of staff for the 6th Area Support Group, which manages facilities in Stuttgart — said that plans call for increasing shuttle-bus service to Panzer from Patch and from Stuttgart’s other two main housing installations, Kelley and Robinson barracks.

“It just makes sense for the community at large to build that shopping center, where you have room to do it right,” Moscone said. “They’ll have the facilities there and parking all around it ... and room to grow there as well.”

Robinson Barracks, located on the opposite side of the city of Stuttgart from the other bases, would retain its consolidated base exchange and commissary, Moscone said.

Stripes in 7

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up