West Fort Bliss Area Development Plan brings insight, new ideas
Marcie C. Wright,
The Urban Collaborative group from Oregon brought a small team here to help the installation develop an area master plan for West Fort Bliss Sept. 17 through 21.
According to Mark Gillem, principal of the firm, President Barack Obama proposes more sustainable, energy efficient installations – places that are more walkable, that support public transit, and that reduce our energy footprint.
“This Unified Facilities Criteria is now a DOD policy,” said Gillem.
As the Department of Defense dictates this new policy, several installations are moving toward this goal. Fort Bliss is on the brink of improvement with energy and cost saving initiatives, like solar power energy, recycling and using reflective paint on building roofs.
The purpose of the master plan is to organize and then allocate production and budget for a solution to problems that will take the installation beyond the 20-year mark of functionality. Forty participants from Fort Bliss organizations, like Directorate of Public Works, Directorate of Logistics, Directorate of Mobilization and Deployment, Anti-terrorism staff and more, joined the study which involved surveying the land, performing critical analysis and mapping and drawing proposed solutions to current and possible future issues.
Things analyzed were quality of life, housing, security and comfort of homes, landscape, streets, walk-ability of the post, green space for play and gathering, and multi-use facilities.
The vision statement was established “to leverage our cavalry history to create a sustainable oasis in the desert with connected open spaces, mulit-use efficient development and accessible streets.” From there, the group looked at three different possible alternatives: maximum development to accommodate another base realignment if needed; limited to no funding; and a middle ground design.
One resounding issue was the way West Fort Bliss connects to East Fort Bliss. Haan Road and the Carrington Street bridge were said to be “in bad shape” because it limits how patrons go from one side of post to the other. The crew decided widening these streets and adding turning lanes would be a good start to some improvements there.
Another mention was the condition of several buildings on the installation; many will not survive another 20 years before needing to be demolished. Other structures have survivability, but need costly renovations. Also, many other streets at West Fort Bliss are in need of revamping.
Suggested improvements include repairing roads, adding bike lanes and more sidewalks to promote non-vehicular transportation and easier access to shopping and recreation. Also, there are some drainage issues, low-hanging power lines and some unkempt parking lots. The use of buffalo grass was brought up because of its ease of maintenance, requiring less water to keep up and ability to showcase more green in neighborhoods.
Other suggestions included consolidating DOL with Army Materiel Command into one building with shared conference rooms, which one team member said worked beautifully in Afghanistan. Relocating the education center was a big issue brought up with several suggestions – one of them being to place it at what is now the Warrior Leader Course, Noncommissioned Officer Academy at Bldg. 2 since it is scheduled to move into the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy soon. The team also looked at sprucing up the drainage areas to give them more functionality as a feature versus a gaping hole in the ground; and, finally, a monorail to connect the installation’s east and west areas.
The group looked at space to erect additional housing here and created house plans for new homes that support environmentally friendly concepts. Space was found to accommodate 150 new homes and research was conducted before designing and planning.
“We’ve asked folks what makes a great neighborhood, what makes a great house, and we’ve taken those ideas to create a new housing style for Fort Bliss,” said Gillem. “It’s not going to be your typical garage in front.”
Gillem said he read an article in USA Today about the return of the front porch as an important piece of a neighborhood.
“That’s what we’re looking at doing because we know that can help build a social community … where people can get to know one another,” said Gillem. “Right now, that’s really important with our high ops-tempo and all the issues that we have with deployments.”
As for the sketches of the low impact housing plans, Gillem explained some of the ideas.
“We would be relying on a design that would consume less energy,” said Gillem. “For instance, placing larger windows on the north side of the homes to utilize the sun’s energy, using building materials that support better insulation, like triple pane windows, and alley-serve garages. We also considered the use of rainwater for flushing toilets and watering the lawn.”
“This is really insightful,” said Fort Bliss garrison commander, Col. Brant V. Dayley. “My mind was originally looking at four quadrants … seeing this extended to eight really illustrates how you’re able to focus a lot of energy and attention to each one of those … this is very helpful in many ways, today and in the future.”
He said he wanted to do more of these – one for East Fort Bliss and another for our space in New Mexico. Having spent much of his life at Fort Bliss, being raised here as a boy and stationed here several times during his military career, Dayley said he wants to create a legacy for the future here.
“Working on this area development plan was a godsend to me,” said Dayley.
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