Future of 89 homes at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in limbo

Published: Tuesday, September 27, 2016 @ 12:00 AM

Michael Ackerman, an Air Force Civil Engineer Center official, outlines the options under consideration for the future of historic homes at Wright-Patterson. Video produced by Barrie Barber.

The Air Force has asked dozens of private developers for ideas to either tear down or renovate 89 historic brick homes among the last of government-owned housing in the military branch, officials say.

Air Force officials outlined options at two public forums this week at Fairborn High School on what to do with the homes in the Brick Quarters Historic District for 30 “key and essential” personnel — or senior military and civilian leaders officials say must live on base because of their crucial roles in the event of an emergency.

Project leaders are weighing a dozen alternatives, including keeping government ownership or privatization, demolition, renovation, constructing new homes or a mix of all those options of the Tudor Revival-style brick homes built in the mid-1930s and that are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

Content Continues Below

As part of the plans, the 19th-century Foulois House, home to a high-ranking general, would be renovated and 10 government-owned homes along Yount Drive built in 1975 would be demolished, plans show.

A major renovation could cost up to $700,000 per home, and less extensive renovation focused on repairs could cost about $150,000, according to Michael D. Ackerman, an Air Force Civil Engineer Center planning expert at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.

Tony Sculimbrene, executive director of the National Aviation Heritage Alliance, said in an interview Tuesday the brick homes were significant historically not only because of the age and character of the buildings but should also be preserved because because of the early Air Force leaders who lived there.

“Those buildings play a big role in the story of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and we want to see demolition minimized to the maximum extent possible,” said Sculimbrene, a former Wright-Patterson employee who oversaw maintenance of military housing on the base in the 1980s.

Air Force officers often looked at a living assignment in one of the brick homes as a sign of career success, added Sculimbrene, also a former officer.

“They stand for something and the brick quarters clearly do stand for the gems in military housing for officers,” he said.

Navy Capt. Rees Lee, and his wife, Sally, live in one of the brick homes. The captain who is the commanding officer of the Naval Medical Research Unit-Dayton at Wright-Patterson, said the brick homes are “really historically unique” and “should be preserved.”

He advocated to keep the neighborhood intact beyond the 30 “key and essential” leaders on base “because I think when you bring senior leaders together in one place into a neighborhood that benefits the base in intangible ways when leadership knows each other.”

When an individual or crisis on base happens, “things get done and things get done because you know each other,” the military officer said.

“We love living there,” Sally Lee added. “We love the … historic character of the house, but we really love the neighborhood. We love the fact that it really is a close-knit neighborhood. We get to know our neighbors.”

Warren K. Brown, 73, of Fairborn, who listened to the options at a sparsely attended Monday hearing at the high school, said the high price tag for major renovations was a concern.

Initially, he said he favored the least expensive option to complete minimum repairs needed to meet building code and safety issues. “I would look at the most cost-effective method because it is our money being spent,” he said.

The public may submit written comments through Oct. 9. Comments may be submitted to Wright-Patterson Public Affairs, 5135 Pearson Road, Building 10, Room 235A, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio 45433 or via email at 88abw.pa@us.af.mil or www.wpafb.af.mil/units/cev.

The Air Force could make a decision late next summer.