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Birth of a community: MacDill well on its way to being a world-class place to live

by Nick Stubbs
Thunderbolt staff writer

This artist's rendering shows a neighborhood view of the new housing projects now under way near Bayshore boulevard. Over the next five years, some $88 million will transform the residential section of the base into a "world-class" community for junior NCOs up to commanding generals.

What would it take to get into a new house in a Tampa Bay waterfront community, where lot prices alone range from $100,000 to $1 million? More than the average sergeant has to spend. But that dream is possible for those based at MacDill.

MacDill's new residential neighborhood is taking shape along the stretch of Bayshore boulevard between the Youth Center and Base Hospital. Over the next five years, some $88 million will transform the residential section of the base into a "world-class" community for junior NCOs up to commanding generals.

"Given the price of real estate, it would be hard to be able to afford living here if it were anywhere else," said Michael Cooley, director of planning for the 6th Civil Engineer Squadron.

Mr. Cooley was providing an update of the residential community facelift, which began last year with moving people out of sub-standard existing housing so it can be torn down and replaced. Every residence in the traditional living area will be torn down, with the exception of five historic homes on Staff Circle. Those homes are more than 50 years old and because they remain essentially as built, they qualify for historical preservation status, said Mr. Cooley. Slightly more than $2 million will be used to return them to their original splendor.

Those homes will join 22 others which will front Bayshore boulevard and serve as the best of the housing, intended for generals based at MacDill. While the military does not budget for million-dollar homes, each will have a million-dollar view, said Mr. Cooley. The cost will be about $300,000, where if the lots were on the market, they easily could fetch $1 million, he said.

Behind those homes to the west will be another two dozen homes to serve colonels on base, followed by lieutenant colonels and majors. With more single-family units, duplexes, triplexes and quadraplexes designated for ranks down to junior NCOs, the project will total 485 units. That's down from the 600 or so they will replace, but with housing options so numerous in the Tampa Bay area, the need to provide more living space on base was not a priority, said Mr. Cooley.

The housing project will run in three phases, the first of which is well on its way. With a price tag of about $21 million, phase one primarily is the construction of NCO housing. Those homes came first by using simple criteria, said Mr. Cooley.

"They were the worst housing so it was a worst first approach," he said.

The next phase will be $40.6 million, covering homes in the northern region of the community from the Bayshore boulevard generals' quarters west to homes for squadron commanders and field grade officers. The third and final phase is for more officer quarters along the northern boarder of the community, just below the Youth Center, will cost $23.6 million, with both to be built out by 2009.

But the project is far more than just homes, said. Mr. Cooley, who notes that Brig. Gen. Tanker Snyder, 6th Air Mobility Wing commander, has put the focus on ensuring the project will be more than wood, stucco and shingles.

"We're building a community, not just houses," said General Snyder.

Toward that end, much of the work will involve construction of parks and common areas where residents can gather with family and friends. Extensive landscaping will provide a peaceful and attractive atmosphere. Bayshore boulevard eventually will close to traffic along this stretch of the base, becoming a limited access road. Through traffic will be routed through the center of the community along a divided road with a tree-lined median, which eventually curves back to the Bay.




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