Originally created 02/25/03

Fort Stewart plans housing



SAVANNAH, Ga. - Imagine children on bicycles, skateboards, in-line skates and scooters cruising the neighborhood.

Older teens have hangouts. Toddlers and pets have safely confined back yards to play in. Families get together for cookouts or just to swap stories.

This is the future of housing at Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield - two places where housing isn't accused of being idyllic.

"The land is free. We have all the land we want. We could have divided all the land, but we don't think that is a solution to the problem," designer Pierluigi Montanini said. "We believe when you're coming here from another post, you need to meet other people."

Mr. Montanini, who works for the Oklahoma City-based Atkins DesignBuild Group, explained to Army wives this month the new idea behind the Stewart-Hunter community development plan.

Atkins is designing 3,700 on-post housing units that are being built by GMH Military Housing as part of an eight-year, $250 million renovation and construction project.

In the end, the project will make "Fort Stewart the Southern Living station of choice," said Col. Gerald Poltorak, the installation commander.

Currently, though, the housing is lacking. Pipes leak, paint peels and floors are warped.

What's worse, though, is that the community layout doesn't necessarily encourage wives to meet one another.

Particularly now, with the soldiers deployed overseas for a possible war with Iraq, the benefits of having a tight community become more urgent.

But Col. Poltorak acknowledged that Fort Stewart's housing isn't designed for that, so The GMH Housing plan is important. The designers essentially are starting from scratch and building a new community designed to meet the military's logistical needs while dealing with the realities of family life.

The idea is to get a mix of families, with children of various ages, to have private areas, but also shared spaces, Mr. Montanini said.

That way, a wife can talk to other wives dealing with the hardships of being alone. Children have an easier time making new friends.

It's this sense of community on base that the wives say can't be copied when living out in the economy - military speak for living off base.

Out in the economy, at sundown or on weekends, can be seen something that's become a rarity on base - husbands. Even with husbands deployed to dangerous parts of the world, community building seemed to take a back seat to the seemingly mundane.

At the unveiling the Army wives wanted to know much more about the new housing's storage space, parking availability, trash disposal areas and need for back porch screens.