The Fort Gordon Post Exchange made possibly its strongest commitment Friday to its slogan, “You save. We give back.”
Using earnings from purchases made by a consumer base that includes 100,000 on- and off-post soldiers and retirees, the shopping complex broke ground on a $21 million project to renovate its nearly 20-year-old facility into a more spacious and modern retail center.
“Today is the realization of a plan that was initiated years ago, and we are finally seeing it come to fruition,” Maj. Gen. LaWarren V. Patterson, Fort Gordon’s commanding officer, said after digging the project’s ceremonial first clump of dirt.
Patterson said the project shows the faith and confidence that both the Department of Defense and the Army and Air Force Exchange Service have in the patronage of Fort Gordon’s Post Exchange.
At a time when U.S. military bases are using early retirement, natural attrition and hiring freezes to battle federal budget cuts and avoid layoffs at its trading posts and strip malls, Fort Gordon has been authorized to nearly double its facility in size from 98,000 to 177,000 square feet.
Jay Dinielli, the project manager for Carothers Construction, said his company received permission Wednesday to begin building on Nov. 1.
The company has not worked at Fort Gordon before; however, its Web site shows it has been approved to renovate a $29.8 million operations center at Fort Jackson, S.C.; expand a $16.7 million commissary at Fort Rucker, Ala.; and build an $11 million paved training area at Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga.
“We are a 50-year-old, family-owned business out of Oxford, Miss., that’s heavily into military construction, and this is going to be one of our premier projects,” Dinielli said.
Dinielli said he painted the ground-breaking shovels silver to celebrate the expansion being designated a LEED Silver project by the U.S. Green Building Council.
The group will implement designs and construction that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient.
Dinielli said his staff will have 660 days to complete the renovation project.
By year’s end, builders are expected to begin knocking out walls along the northern and western boundaries of the old shopping center, said Stefan Marks, the general manager of the Fort Gordon Post Exchange.
Marks said the interior will be rearranged for an interconnected grid of cafes, shops and merchandise displays. The food court will be moved from the east side to the west and will have two new eating choices.
The shopping area will be divided into three sections – entertainment, casual living and housewares – and aisles and hallways will be widened for vendor carts.
The trading post’s auxiliary location will be combined with the main exchange on Third Avenue and almost double the size of its stockroom.
The main center will include pharmacy and dry cleaner services.
Last year, the post exchange netted more than $8 million in earnings, thanks to an exemption from sales tax and an average merchandise price that is 25 percent less than department stores off Fort Gordon, receipts show.
“This is a great day for the Fort Gordon,” Marks said. “We are finally giving the community a one-stop shopping experience. Everything will be under one hat in an ideal location.”