WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 24, 2014) – The Staybridge Suites now under construction at Fort Belvoir, Va., is being designed specifically to cater to wounded warriors and their visiting family members.
Just a few of the features at the hotel will be conference rooms for doctor-patient meetings, a movie theater for those who can’t get out and a children’s entertainment area and playground, said Elizabeth Lloyd, senior vice president, asset management for Lend Lease (U.S.) Public Partnerships, the developer for the Army’s lodging privatization portfolio.
There will even be a pool with roll-in access that can be used for fun or water therapy exercise, she added.
Another lodging project is underway at Belvoir. Knadle Hall will become a Holiday Inn Express this summer, Lloyd said, explaining that throughout the portfolio, existing lodging facilities are being renovated and updated to include bringing select facilities up to the standards required to operate under the Holiday Inn Express brand.
There are two new Candlewood Suites hotels now open at Fort Riley, Kan., and Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., and five more under construction.
At Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, the Powless Guest House is being renovated and will become a Holiday Inn Express this summer. It too will serve wounded warriors and their families, Lloyd said. It is expected to be frequented due to its proximity to Brooke Army Medical Center. In addition to an increase in Americans with Disabilities Act-designed rooms, the renovations will include a zero entry pool and an outdoor children’s playground.
PARTNERING WITH PRIVATE SECTOR
The lodging at Belvoir and San Antonio are just two examples of the new hotels that are part of the Privatized Army Lodging program, or PAL.
Besides Holiday Inn Express, Candlewood Suites is the other hotel brand that Lend Lease is constructing, although not all are specifically designed for wounded warriors. Staybridge Suites is the first and will be the only such lodging constructed in the Army, so it is unique, Lloyd said.
Altogether, there are now more than 11,600 hotel rooms on 39 Army installations in the U.S and Puerto Rico, she said.
Lloyd then provided an overview of PAL.
Over the last several years, the Army has had trouble funding the renovation of its on-post lodging, with a backlog of projects it couldn’t complete, Lloyd said. And, besides the renovation, new lodging was needed.
PAL is a great example of what public-private partnerships can bring to service members and their families, she said. Profits from its newly constructed or renovated hotels are “locked away into a reinvestment account set aside to reinvest in hotels over life of program, which is 50 years,” she explained. After that, the hotels are turned over to the Army.
Soldiers and their families benefit as well, she added. The on-post hotels can only charge 75 percent of the per diem rate, she said. That saves the Army travel money, she said.
But just because the rates are lower doesn’t mean the amenities or services are skimpy. Lloyd said they’re the same offered by lodging outside the gate.
The majority of on-post lodging is used by Soldiers on travel or Soldiers and their families on permanent change of station orders, she said.
Overseeing the Army’s partnership with the private sector is Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy & Environment.
“This program reflects the U.S. Army’s commitment to improving its transient lodging to enhance the quality of life for soldiers and their families,” said Hammack.
“The recapitalization of the on-post lodging facilities is critical to ensure that U.S. military students and other official travelers have convenient, affordable accommodations in close proximity to their mission and post facilities. The program also allows the Army to divest itself of a non-core function and transfer to the private sector in a manner that ensures the long-term sustainability of the hotels,” she added.
Lloyd said Soldiers can expect to see more such lodging projects popping up on installations, as the last ones will not be completed until 2021.