BRAC complex finishes first build

December 14, 2008|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

The first building on the 400-acre research and development complex under development at Aberdeen Proving Ground has opened and is fully leased.

Rockville-based Opus East, which is developing the Government and Technology Enterprise, or GATE, site in partnership with the Army, designed the $12 million structure to suit the needs of CACI International Inc., a technical consultant and federal contractor headquartered in Arlington, Va. The 60,000-square-foot structure was delivered to CACI, its sole tenant, in seven months, company officials said.

"This building serves as a very concrete measure for the changes coming to APG," post spokesman George Mercer said. "It is also significant that Opus has been able to build and lease this space in what is a really tight economy."

CACI has signed a seven-year lease for the one-story concrete building, which can accommodate 250 employees. The building features office and conference facilities, electronics labs and high-bay spaces that will allow for testing of equipment. It also complies with federal anti-terrorism standards, the developer said.

Opus has designed the GATE to serve the needs of the Army base that will grow by about 10,000 jobs as part of the nationwide military base realignment and closure process, known as BRAC. Ultimately, the GATE complex will offer more than 2 million square feet of office, laboratory, research and development space for defense contractors and others working on missions at the base.

"This shows that BRAC is really happening," Mercer said. "This project will have an impact on APG's ability to fulfill the developing BRAC mission."

Opus expects to sign its next tenant soon and to break ground for a second GATE building, likely to be 80,000 square feet, in the spring.

"This is the first of many milestones, and we intend to stay there and grow," said Matt Holbrook, Opus' senior director of real estate. "Our project is ideally located so that it is embedded with its customer, the Army. This is just the tip of the iceberg. We are seeing more momentum for this project every day, regardless of what is happening in the economy."

Opus is leasing for the next 50 years what the Army calls underutilized land, a parcel near the Route 715 entrance to the post.

"This is a great win for the Army," Holbrook said. "Its contractors will be nearby, secure and protected on one big campus."

The Department of Defense has been pushing to find new ways of financing maintenance and improvements on military installations when the defense budget is being stretched to support combat operations overseas. The lease agreement with Opus is generating funds that allow base officials to make improvements at the 90-year-old facility.

"Opus is also providing us with a variety of in-kind services, including rebuilding a recreation area that had to be relocated," Mercer said.

The Army is rebuilding its entry gate at Route 715 near Route 40. The new five-lane structure will be equipped with rapid entry technology that will improve access and security, officials said.

The CACI building is near the new entry and within sight of the Army's latest construction project - a $477 million complex that will house many of the communications jobs moving to APG from Fort Monmouth, N.J., a base slated for closure.

The 1.5-million-square-foot facility, being built by Whiting-Turner Contractors, should be ready for occupancy in the fall of 2010, a year ahead of the deadline for the completion of BRAC. APG also broke ground last month on a 4.5-mile high-speed track that will allow the Army to test manned and unmanned vehicles. The two-lane track, which will circle the post's airfield, is expected to be in operation within a year.

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