JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C., –
Base leadership and dignitaries broke ground on the site of the modernized Visiting Quarters Oct. 24, 2018, at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., marking the start of construction on a four-story structure, which will feature 266 rooms, conference rooms, an exercise room, guest laundry and other updated amenities covering nearly 150,000 square feet.
“We have the requirement for over 350 rooms and we only have 80,” said Joe Abell, JB Charleston’s lodging manager. “This is a long-term fix for what we need, so we’re excited to get this done.”
The $59 million project is the result of low vacancy at the current Visitor’s Quarters, where lodging managers are forced to turn potential guests away to off-base facilities, costing the government extra money in reimbursements for those night-stays off-base.
“The Army Corps of Engineers and the contractor will be providing us with the highest quality quarters possible,” said Col. Terrence Adams, JB Charleston commander. “The new facility, once completed, will add around 100 jobs to the local community.”
Accommodating a larger number of visiting mission partners will improve the efficiency and readiness of the personnel by hosting them on sight, while also saving valuable tax dollars in the process. The new VQ will lodge personnel on official business, such as reservists, visiting active duty members and distinguished visitors. Any additional vacancy will be extended to retirees, dependents and other guests.
“The Corps of Engineers is honored to be a part of this project,” said Maj. Paul Sipe, Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District deputy commander. “We are pleased to be part of a committed team to provide the best lodging for Airmen, Sailors, veterans and their families. We have assembled a talented project management and construction team. We are prepared to work hard and deliver.”
When assessing the need for a new VQ, lodging managers pointed to the number of occupants that had to resort to off-base lodging due to a lack of vacancy. The average turn away was around 1,100 occupants per month. Out of the three existing VQ structures, two will be completely demolished and the remaining one will be renovated and modernized. The Visitor’s Quarters project is slated for completion in Fall 2020.
“Through analysis, we arrived at a need of an approximately 350-room facility,” said Shah Rushikesh, 628th Civil Engineer Squadron project management liaison. “With the addition of the 266-room facility and the existing 80-room facility, we feel that this is a long term fix to meet the demand of on-base lodging.”
Normally, a project like this is taxpayer-funded, but around $57 million of the $59 million project was funded by the Air Force Services Agency. AFSA puts funds, generated through their lodging facilities, into a “pot” and awards the money to new projects that improve the quality of life for service members and their families. Due to the high demand for lodging on JB Charleston, this project was awarded nearly all the necessary funding.
“When the Air Force Services Agency recognized the need for a new facility, they explored the different avenues of funding for this large project,” said Wayne Cotton, 628th CES engineer. “Collaborating with them and providing our local input, we were able to arrive at a design and dollar amount that met the needs of the base.”
According to the Charleston District Army Corp of Engineers, this will be the largest structure that they have ever managed for a military customer.