Potential R&D center blocks transfer of housing

Fort being considered
for nation

Staff Writer

Potential R&D center blocks transfer of housing

Fort being considered

for nation’s Homeland Security lab


Staff Writer

EATONTOWN — The Army has reversed itself and decided to keep the Howard Commons military housing complex at Fort Monmouth.

The borough has been engaged for the past year-and-a-half in planning the anticipated turnover of the housing complex to the private sector.

However, Mayor Gerald J. Tarantolo said in an interview, the borough has just been notified by the General Services Administration, which was overseeing the transfer, that administrative control over the complex will revert back to Fort Monmouth.

Timothy L. Rider, a spokesman for the Army’s Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) at Fort Monmouth, confirmed that the Army plans to keep Howard Commons. He said the move was related to the fact that CECOM is seeking to become the national research and development center designated under the Homeland Security law.

If CECOM is successful in snagging the center, it will be built in the Camp Charles Wood portion of Fort Monmouth.

Rider said Camp Charles Wood is currently home to CECOM’s Myer Center Homeland Security Complex, which is the headquarters and the site of laboratories for CECOM’s research, development and engineering activities.

Rider said a lot of the existing housing within the Camp Charles Wood complex has been torn down because it was inadequate and plans were to build new housing to replace it. Now, with the possibility of acquiring the new national research and development center, that space is being left vacant for future labs.

There still is a need for the housing, he continued, so the Army decided to hold onto Howard Commons as the locale for the replacement housing.

Rider said Fort Monmouth would keep the northern portion of Howard Commons for military housing but, in time, would let a contractor develop the southern portion for use by the private sector. He said the Army would keep the southern portion of Howard Commons for use as military housing only while existing housing in the northern portion is torn down and replaced.

Tarantolo said he understood that Fort Monmouth intended to demolish the 281 existing housing units in the north­ern portion and replace them with 158 units of new housing, in keeping with the plan the borough developed.

Rider confirmed that was, indeed, the Army’s plan.

Both Tarantolo and Rider said re­placing the housing in the northern sec­tion would be done as a Residential Community Initiative which they said effectively privatizes its operation as military housing. They explained the Army brings in a commercial partner to build and manage the property.

Rider said the Army does that because it isn’t in the business of being a property manager. Tarantolo said such leases typically are for 50 years.

As soon as the northern portion of Howard Commons is rebuilt and the southern portion is no longer needed for military use, it will be turned over to a private contractor to develop for the pub­lic sector, both officials said.

Tarantolo said he believed the private contractor would develop the southern section in accordance with the borough’s plan although "that’s not etched in stone." He said the borough would revise its plan before any bidding.

When Howard Commons South passes from the Army’s control the area is expected to include age-restricted hous­ing and fee-simple housing, both with an affordable housing component, the mayor added.

Tarantolo said he was pressing to have all development conform to the bor­ough’s plan and codes so that when the Army releases its hold on Howard Commons 25 or 50 years down the road "we don’t have a problem."

"I guess the good news is that they are taking elements of our plan and incor­porating them into the military hous­ing," he said.

The borough hired a planning firm, Kise, Straw Kolodner, of Philadelphia, in March this year to draw up a scheme for the orderly development of Howard Commons for when it was to be turned over to the private sector.

"The GSA was selling it and the town was looking to purchase it with a part­ner," the mayor noted. "You might say the borough got half a loaf."