Monday, March 29, 2010

Feds consolidating National Guard and Army Reserve in new center

Construction is under way on a new $15.5 million U.S. Army Forces Reserve Center where the city’s old Coca-Cola bottling plant once stood.
The new reserve center will combine Brownsville’s Army Reserve and Texas National Guard units, which are currently housed in separate facilities on the campus of the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College. Once the new building is complete the old buildings will be vacated and demolished, and the land will cede to the university.
The new center will feature a 45,395-square-foot training building, 4,763 square feet of maintenance space and a 13,018-square-foot parking lot. It will also house offices, classrooms, library, weapons training simulator and physical fitness training room.
The site is approximately 12 acres west of U.S. Expressway 77-83, bordered by Los Ebanos Boulevard, Woodruff Avenue, Tulane Avenue and Frontage Road. The Army Corps of Engineers estimates construction will be complete by January 2012. The land has been empty since the old bottling plant was closed in the 1980s and demolished sometime later.
Army spokesman Maj. Jason Guerrero, project officer with the 63rd Regional Support Command, said the project is being done in accordance with recommendations from the Defense Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC) Commission of 2005 in response to the BRAC Act of 1990.
The $15.5 million cost is part of $1.5 billion for Texas military projects approved by the Senate last year. Kingsville and San Antonio are also getting new reserve centers, while Corpus Christi will get a new Army depot. Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio is getting more than $271 million in construction projects.
Guerrero said he had no information on how much the Army Corps of Engineers paid for the land in Brownsville. However, Mark Barnard, head of commercial properties for Coastal Realty in Brownsville, said it’s likely the property sold for the list price of nearly $2.4 million.
The project is part of the fifth phase of BRAC, a Department of Defense effort that began in 1988, the purpose being to close surplus military installations and consolidate assets to save money on operations and maintenance. More than 350 installations were closed between 1989 and 1995 under the BRAC initiative.
Army documents show that the Corps of Engineers considered two alternative sites to the west and northwest before settling on the Los Ebanos-expressway location. The same study projected a minor impact on traffic during the construction process and, once the center is complete, during training sessions, which usually take place on weekends.
The Army study predicts that expenditures related to construction of the new center will result in "moderate beneficial impacts" during the construction period, including "slight benefits for local and regional employment and personal income."

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