Wiesbaden community sees building boom
Stars and Stripes March 2, 2008
WIESBADEN, Germany — The dust is flying along the Rhine River, and it’s not about to settle any time soon. In fact, it’s only going to intensify.
Over the next several years, the Wiesbaden military community, which includes 16 sites in four towns, is slated to undergo a massive building boom that will involve dozens of projects and cost more than $500 million, according to Army officials.
“We got a lot of work going on,” said Michael Dennis, a construction supervisor for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Aside from a long-standing program to upgrade existing housing areas, all the work is rooted in the Defense Department’s decision to make Wiesbaden the future headquarters for the 7th Army. That entity will supplant U.S. Army Europe by Sept. 30, 2009, as the principal land component for the U.S. European Command, though it won’t move from Heidelberg to Wiesbaden until at least 2012.
The shift will be “a major focus of ours for the next couple of years,” said Brig. Gen. David G. Perkins, USAREUR’s operations officer.
Much of the construction work will occur at Wiesbaden Army Airfield and Hainerberg Housing Area. The hotel being built on the north end of Hainerberg is “the first tangible evidence” of that transformation, said Col. Ray A. Graham Jr., commander of U.S. Army Garrison Hessen/Wiesbaden.
The intention, according to Graham, is to keep support facilities at Hainerberg and centralize 7th Army functions at the airfield, though a large new housing area — to be called Erbenheim South — is planned for a slice of farmland adjacent to it.
“They’ll be nice town house quarters,” Graham said of the estimated $133 million housing area, which tentatively is projected to have about 250 to 300 units.
Over the past century, the airfield has undergone several makeovers, from a horse racetrack to an airport for spa-bound tourists to a German Luftwaffe base. After World War II, it was the headquarters of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, and, since 2001, the center of operations for the 1st Armored Division.
Today, just beyond the steps of the division’s headquarters building is the parade field that will ultimately become the 7th Army’s command-and-control complex. South of it will be an intelligence center. Those new buildings, coupled with a new network warfare center and a renovated structure for the 66th Military Intelligence Brigade headquarters, will constitute the nerve center for the Army in Europe.
Preliminary plans also call for two, multilevel parking garages, which would ease an already pressing need. Currently, the military and civilian work force in Wiesbaden is about 5,500, though it is projected to increase by roughly 2,000, Graham said.
One of the key components of the site is the airfield’s 7,000-foot-long airstrip.
“It needs some work, but that [will involve] just renovation and repair,” Graham said. “It’s a pretty capable runway already.”
Several miles due north of the airfield is Hainerberg.
Its project list is lengthy, too. In addition to the hotel, which is expected to be ready by fall 2009, it includes a post exchange and commissary complex, a la Grafenwöhr, a processing center for soldiers arriving and departing, a conference hall, a child development center and a bowling facility collocated with a restaurant.
Some projects will involve the demolition of buildings, such as the bowling center, while others will only require renovation of existing structures. The processing center, for instance, is tentatively planned for the commissary.
Even the schools will be upgraded. About $15 million is budgeted for the high school, which, among other things, is in line for a new gymnasium. The middle and elementary schools on Hainerberg stand to get about $5 million in upgrades.
In the residential section, as well as up the road at the Aukamm and Crestview housing areas, work has has been going on for several years.
While the effort to improve the housing areas dates back to 2000, the view is that it fits well with the Army’s desire to retain soldiers and remake Wiesbaden as it turns yet another chapter.
“If we put them in a nice place,” said Dennis, the building supervisor who is also in charge of the hotel project, “it could make the difference between them staying in the Army or getting out.”