Progress evident at new Armed Forces Retirement Home

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS  (WLOX) - It's the largest construction project in the City of Gulfport.

Construction crews are busy working six days a week on the new $200,000,000 Armed Forces Retirement Home.

A trio of eight story towers, now visible above the tree line, will replace the 11 story building battered by Hurricane Katrina.

After an early '08 ground breaking, the new and improved Armed Forces Retirement Home should be finished by July of next year.

"This building is designed to mitigate the effects of a hurricane, category five.  And you can see that in the building structure alone, and the fact that all living spaces are elevated to 15 feet above grade, which basically will deal with the storm surge of that kind of magnitude of hurricane," said Steven Smith, project executive with the General Services Administration.

The 584 rooms in the new retirement home will be more than four times larger than in the old building: 425 square feet compared with around 100 square feet before.

Along with those rooms come plenty of amenities for the retired military.

"Well, it's a full fledged retirement home.  It has recreation. It has a wellness center. There's four bowling alleys inside. There will also be an indoor boccie ball," said Smith.

The 200 plus former residents of the home, now living in Washington D.C., are able to keep a close watch on the progress of their future, new home.  Thanks to a solar powered web camera they have instant access to view the construction site here in Gulfport.

"The way the web cam is set up, there's a photo taken every five minutes and they actually sit around, gather together and try to discern what the difference is between each photograph that appears to be refreshed on the web cam," Smith explained.

A separate project will refurbish the old chapel building. Original stained glass windows are already being restored at a studio in Philadelphia.

"We were able to contract with the original artisan who produced the stained glass," said Smith.

Once construction is finished, the first residents will return in the fall of 2010.

Another separate project is the rebuilding of the pedestrian walkway over Highway 90. Unlike the old structure, which was restricted to retirement home residents, the new walkover will be open to the general public.

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