Center reflects new thinking

Base to improve quarters in the hopes of helping recruiting and retention

Fort Meade

December 19, 2003|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

The new neighborhood center at Fort Meade is not exactly your father's military lounge, what with its wide-screen television, pool table, gymnasium and well-lighted playroom.

And that's exactly the point, said the Army officials and dignitaries who helped open the center on the Odenton Army post yesterday.

The more than 3,000 new homes that Picerne Real Estate Group is building at Fort Meade through a public-private partnership reflect a change in the military.

Two-thirds of the military are married when they join the armed forces, and many have children.

They want to live amid the comforts they have grown used to off post, but often cannot afford.

"Families don't need another quarters. Families need a place to call home," said the Fort Meade commander, Col. John W. Ives. "And for their service, they deserve it."

Over the next decade, Picerne will build five neighborhoods of about 500 homes each at Fort Meade, with a neighborhood center anchoring each of them.

John G. Picerne, chief executive officer and president of Picerne Military housing, said he hopes the centers will be "the heart and soul of the community" - a place to work out, picnic with the kids, and talk to management about possible repairs.

Fort Meade is one of four pilot sites nationwide to begin the Residential Communities Initiative, a program Congress approved in 1996 to eradicate substandard military housing.

Several families have moved into Potomac Place, the first subdivision the company has built. The neighborhood center officially opens this weekend.

Yesterday, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin said he lobbied for the Odenton base to be among the first for the housing overhaul. Most Fort Meade housing was built in the 1950s and 1960s and has asbestos, lead paint and plumbing problems. They also lack basic amenities, such as master bathrooms and family rooms.

"On a lot of military installations, it was not the type of housing you would be proud of," Cardin said.

Potomac Place doesn't look anything like the 900-square- foot house where Geoffrey Prosch lived when he was stationed in Leavenworth, Kan., early his career.

Geoffrey Prosch, principal deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for installations and environment, said the new quarters should help recruit young soldiers and current enlistees focused on the mission.

"These soldiers will be able to keep their head in the game, knowing that their family is secure," he said.

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