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Growth at Fort Leonard Wood spurs local company to build

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Military realignment at Fort Leonard Wood

calls for the addition of homes in Pulaski County

by Paul Flemming

SBJ Staff

In little more than a year, the military personnel at Fort Leonard Wood will increase by more than 50 percent to 32,000 people. A Springfield company is part of the effort to provide housing for that influx of folks with its Hickory Valley development.

Carlson-Gardner Properties Inc. is developing the 240-acre, $10 million project that will result in about 600 housing units in Pulaski County. A June 29 meeting of military brass, state government officials and local leaders hailed progress to this point.

"You've taken a problem and created an opportunity," said Gov. Mel Carnahan, in attendance at the meeting with about 50 others comprising the Development Advisory Group of the Fort Leonard Wood Regional Commerce and Growth Association.

When it formed in 1996, the RCGA had among its goals to add 1,200 housing units by the year 2000. About 1,100 of which Hickory Valley is the largest single contributor are slated to be built.

Hickory Valley "is setting a completely different precedent in this county," said Elizabeth Bax, executive director of the RCGA. "It's a large subdivision, built to urban standards, and that's a new thing here."

Bax said that though other builders in the area constructed quality housing, the size and scope of the Carlson-Gardner project was what set it apart.

Carlson-Gardner was deemed an endorsed developer by the association because it chose to build on land within several designated priority areas, the development will be on a public sewer system and the homes will conform to national-standard building codes. Five other developers have been similarly endorsed by the group.

"They came forward, and we agreed to help them with anything they needed," Bax said, adding that the help constituted work as a liaison between the developers, state and military agencies.

The need for more housing came as a result of 1995 congressional and military decisions on budget-cutting base closures. Chemical and military police schools, now at Fort McClellan in Alabama, are moving to Fort Leonard Wood in October 1999.

"There was a lot of opportunity because of the Army's base realignment," said Tom Carlson, a principal in Carlson-Gardner Properties, along with Mark Gardner.

The Hickory Valley project has been more than two years in the making. The development is set to be annexed into the city of St. Robert, and 50 houses will be constructed in its first phase this year. Holigan Homes, a Dallas builder, bought the lots from Carlson-Gardner and is building about 200 homes with price ranges from $70,000 through $130,000.

"Even though it (includes) affordable housing, we put a lot of nice things in, spreading the cost of amenities over a few hundred homes," Carlson said.

Bax said information on precisely what personnel will be assigned to Fort Wood was used to determine the type of housing needed, from the moderate-income housing available in the apartments for lower-ranking soldiers to the pricier homes within Hickory Valley for officers.

Among the features of the development are two clubhouses, lakes and walking trails along an existing dry creek bed on the property.

In addition, a 225-apartment complex is under construction. About 60 of those apartments will be for low- to moderate-income renters. The apartments will be owned by Resorts Management Inc., a Branson developer of which Carlson is president. Woodco is the contractor for the apartments, designed by Hood-Rich Inc.

Holigan will put up between 150 and 200 manufactured homes on the western part of the property.

Branson's Yung Design Group prepared the development's master plan, and Shaffer & Associates Consulting Engineers of Nixa also provided engineering services.

On the day of the June 29 meeting at the fort, the development's entrance road was being paved in the hills east of St. Robert, near Interstate 44. Dewey Moore of Nixa constructed the streets, Carlson said. In the spring, a ground-breaking ceremony marked the future site of a St. Robert fire station going up at the front of the property.

In addition to addressing housing issues, Bax said the RCGA concerns itself with other economic development to improve the quality of life for military personnel assigned to the mid-Missouri fort, and also with diversifying the local economy.

She said the agency grew out of a $298,000 grant from the Office of Economic Adjustment within the office of the secretary of Defense. Of that, Bax said, two-thirds went to commission a consultant for a plan to deal with Pulaski County's coming growth. "These communities needed a way to handle this influx," she said.

In most cases, Bax said, the Office of Economic Adjustment worked with communities surrounding military bases that are closing or being cut back. In granting the money for the Fort Wood group, she said the Department of Defense recognized the need to help in the transition to a larger operation.

Other components of the RCGA plan include economic development to help create private-sector jobs for military spouses; and land-use and transportation planning.

In addition, the work of the agency may help beyond addressing current concerns and benefit the fort and the area when future base closings and reassignments are contemplated.

"The existence and work of the RCGA could also serve a vital role in future (base-closure) rounds," a recent summation of the agency's work said. "The county-wide effort to enhance the quality of life in Pulaski County sends a message to the Department of Defense, as well as others considering a major investment in this region."

PHOTO CAPTION:

Tom Carlson and Julie Fortner, of Carlson-Gardner Properties Inc., are on the site of Hickory Valley, a 240-acre development near St. Robert. The project is part of a regional effort to house Fort Leonard Wood's growing population. [[In-content Ad]]

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