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Work to finally begin this fall on Army lodge at Chièvres Air Base

By KEVIN DOUGHERTY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 19, 2007

CHIÈVRES, Belgium — There have been construction delays and cost overruns, but work is finally set to begin this fall on the 94-room Army lodge at Chièvres Air Base in Belgium.

Among other things, “we got killed on the conversion (rate),” Rob Mackson, chief of master planning for U.S. Army Garrison Benelux, said in reference to the proposed hotel and weak dollar.

The $19.5 million hotel is part of an effort to build and upgrade facilities at the Army-run airfield, nearby Daumerie Casern, and at other installations across the Benelux.

The bases mainly exist to support U.S. forces assigned to NATO.

Other future projects include a $17 million commissary for Chièvres, a $12.5 million barracks and battalion headquarters complex for Brunssum, Netherlands, and an $8 million child development center for Brussels.

“Drive or walk around the Brussels, Chièvres or Schinnen garrisons and you can see improved or new facilities,” Col. Dean Nowowiejski, the outgoing USAG Benelux commander said at his change-of-command ceremony this month.

“It is clear to me,” Nowowiejski added, “that the days when the Benelux was a forgotten and misunderstood garrison are on the way to becoming a past memory.”

While there has been much attention — and money — paid to so-called “enduring communities” in Germany, such as Wiesbaden and Grafenwöhr, improvements in the Benelux largely have gone unnoticed. Two years ago, for example, Chièvres officials cut the ribbon on a $9.5 million dormitory.

Not all of the projects have carried large price tags, though. Last month, the Chièvres community unveiled a $451,000 vehicle processing center on the air base and a $257,000 regional retreat center above its family life center on Daumerie.

The Chièvres Army Lodge, as it is currently known, went up in cost due to delays caused by design changes by the Army and local officials, Mackson said.

The initial estimate had been $14 million. The hotel is now expected to open in early 2009.

“We’ve had so many of these tweaks and changes” to the original plan, Mackson said.

Construction of the new commissary is scheduled for October. When completed in early 2009, it will be nearly comparable in size and quality to commissaries at major installations.

One major project nearing completion is the yearlong runway renovation effort. Used by rotary and fixed-wing aircraft, the runway is being lengthened and resurfaced.

“All we really have left to do is reconnect the taxiways back to the runway and mark it,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. George Bonney, an airfield manager.


Planned construction

Some of the planned and proposed construction projects for U.S. Army Garrison, Benelux:

  • $19.5 million hotel, Chièvres Air Base, Belgium
  • $17 million commissary for Chièvres
  • $2.8 million upgrade of water system, Chièvres
  • $12.5 million joint barracks and battalion headquarters complex for Brunssum, Netherlands
  • $8.3 million child development center and youth services facility for Brunssum
  • $8 million child development center and youth services facility for Brussels, Belgium
  • $9 million joint barracks complex, NATO headquarters, Brussels

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