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Fort Lewis ‘model of the new philosophy’ of growth

Post by Scott Fontaine on Dec. 26, 2008 at 8:38 am |
December 26, 2008 8:38 am

USA Today has an article on the building boom around military installations, and how planners are aiming for “smarter” growth.

Fort Lewis is the article’s focus on how to do it right. If you regularly keep tabs on Lewis’ growth, there’s not a ton new. But it’s always helpful to read what a reporter with a fresh set of eyes wrote.

From the story:

Fort Lewis, a post south of Tacoma, Wash., is touted as a model of the new philosophy. The active-duty population was 18,000 five years ago. It’s now 30,000 and is expected to top 32,000 by 2012, says Col. Cynthia Murphy, garrison commander.

Fort Lewis stretches across 86,000 acres, much of it used for training missions. About 30% of families live in the 3,800 homes there — most built after World War II. Another 290 homes will be built next year and up to 2,000 more over time.

The military doesn’t want to touch land used for training, which it views as vital. That means overhauling the base’s old development plan. About 600 people met in workshops — “from junior soldiers to the most senior leadership to families of deployed soldiers … single soldiers, retirees,” Murphy says.

A planning vision emerged: A main boulevard with sidewalks, side streets for slower traffic, 2- to 3-story buildings for denser development, retail stores on the street level, a distinct downtown. It identified 12 neighborhoods that would have their own mini-downtowns. All would be connected to the main town center.

When the post exchange, the on-base store, wanted to expand to resemble a commercial big-box store, Murphy said no for the same reasons many towns do: Giant parking lots around them create traffic and little connection with a neighborhood.

Now, housing is planned nearby. A new dental facility that needed parking space shares with a church that had available parking during business hours. “It’s really a phenomenal amount of change,” says Tom Tolman, installation planner at Fort Lewis.

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