2008 Articles, Editorials, Letters to the Editor

Fort Monroe authority expects needing $40 million for capital improvements

The Daily Press
5:15 PM EST, November 20, 2008

FORT MONROE – - The authority that will manage Fort Monroe after the Army leaves in September 2011 anticipates needing $30.million to improve infrastructure, roads, utilities and flood controls.

The Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority anticipates needing another $10.million for building improvements, and $20 million for budget shortfalls from fiscal year 2012 to 2016.

Executive Director William A. Armbruster explained the finances to board members during a meeting on Thursday. The authority anticipates that it will make enough money by leasing or renting buildings and facilities on the historic military base to pay for all of its expenses by fiscal year 2017. The authority expects that it will make enough in revenue by fiscal year 2021 to issue bonds to repay the Commonwealth for the $40.million needed to improve infrastructure, roads, utilities, flood controls and buildings.

Armbruster said the projected dollar amounts are preliminary and subject to change.


Documenting history to plan for future

Architects say inventory of historic structures at Fort Monroe should be finished today.

757-247-4952, Daily Press

FORT MONROE – Much of the future look and feel of this historic Army post might have been determined over the past few days by a team of preservation architects surveying its most significant structures.

Armed with cameras, detailed plans and lengthy written descriptions, the group hopes to complete its meticulously annotated inventory of more than 170 buildings and thousands of different architectural features today.

Then it will transform its data on the current condition of these structures into comprehensive standards for both preserving the built landscape of this National Historic Landmark District and introducing any new construction.

Both sets of standards are required by the Army, the Commonwealth, the Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation as part of their agreement for the federal hand-over of the 570-acre property to the state in 2011.

“We want to set fairly rigid standards so we can preserve the historic character and ambience of the fort. Certain things will be non-negotiable — there will be no demolition or new construction inside the fort,” said Gregory Rutledge, a historic architect with Norfolk architectural firm Hanbury, Evans, Wright, Vlattas + Company, which is conducting the work.

“But we also want to make these standards feasible. We want them to generate enthusiasm among people interested in coming in and looking for opportunities for development. We don’t want to make them so tight that we scare people away.”

Among the hallmark structures attracting special attention from the architectural team are Old Quarters No. 1 — the 1819 house that ranks as the earliest non-fort building inside the walls — and the Carpenter Gothic-style Chapel of the Centurion built between 1855 and 1858.

Quarters No. 17 served as Robert E. Lee’s home when the future Confederate general — then a lieutenant in the Army engineers — helped supervise the completion of Fort Monroe and the beginning of nearby Fort Wool between 1831 and 1834.

What makes the historic landscape at Fort Monroe unusually distinctive, however, is not just its landmark structures but also the dense, widely varied collection of other architecturally significant buildings that have cropped up in and outside the fort’s walls over the years, Rutledge said.

That inventory ranges in date from the early 1800s to the early 20th century and includes structures varying from 100 to 84,000 square feet in size. It also features high-style Beaux Arts office buildings and Colonial Revival dwellings as well as Victorian-era barracks and simple vernacular structures — all of which could provide opportunities for distinctive adaptive reuse projects.

“Every major building campaign the Army undertook is represented here. We have at least seven or eight major architectural styles — and lots of minor variations on those styles,” Rutledge said. “So there’s a lot of work to do.”

Once completed, the standards will not only establish the requirements for builders and developers seeking historic preservation tax credits for adaptive reuse but also the benchmarks for new construction.

In addition to providing firm guidelines in such areas as building size, materials and style, they’ll also lay down the grid and scale of any new streets as well as both the density of any new construction and the nature of the surrounding landscape.

The standards will vary depending on the character of each of the post’s five different management zones, with the strictest rules governing development inside the historic fort and the “Historic Village” on the southwest.

“Some people are terrified that once the hand-over in 2011 comes, developers are going to come in and build the place out. But that’s not our goal,” Rutledge said. “We’re trying to define the character-defining features — the distinctive architectural and landscape features — that we don’t want to lose.”

Fort Monroe plan will cost $500 million, analysts say

The costs

David Shiver of Bay Area Economics said it would take about $350 million to rehabilitate historic buildings and construct infill housing in the North Gate area and historic village. He estimated infrastructure improvements on the base would cost another $33 million, and developing cultural facilities and a museum would take about $66 million.

Mostly private

Private investors would provide the bulk of the capital, according to a company hired to help Fort Monroe prepare for the Army’s departure in three years.

By Kate Wiltrout
The Virginian-Pilot
© September 20, 2008


Implementing the Fort Monroe reuse plan approved last month by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine will require nearly half a billion dollars in investment – most of it from the private sector.

That’s the conclusion of Bay Area Economics, a company hired by the Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority to help it prepare for the Army’s departure in three years.

David Shiver of BAE told the authority Friday that it would take an investment of about $350 million to rehabilitate historic buildings and construct infill housing in the North Gate area and the historic village – both outside the walled stone fort where development would be strictly regulated.

“People ought to know that Fort Monroe requires a lot of private investment,” Shiver said.

He estimated infrastructure improvements on the 570-acre waterfront base would cost another $33 million, and developing cultural facilities and a museum called for in the reuse plan would take about $66 million.

Shiver said the private sector would provide the bulk of the capital but emphasized that the state must make an initial outlay to attract private investment.

A minimum of $12 million in public investment will be required to remake the base into a viable community where people live, work and play, Shiver said. The public funding would provide seed money for the authority and create a contingency fund, he said.

The nearly $500 million figure didn’t faze Bill Armbruster, the authority’s executive director.

“That is actually a good number for us to work with,” Armbruster said afterward. “We believe we can generate that with the inventory we have. We have great potential.”

In the short term, local, state and Army authorities are focused on nuts-and-bolts issues, such as figuring out who will provide utilities and public services when the Army leaves.

The bigger task facing the authority: finding companies or organizations interested in leasing office space, rehabbing buildings for tax credits, and constructing new housing that doesn’t jeopardize the fort’s status as a national historic landmark.

Some of the terms in Shiver’s presentation might have raised eyebrows among those worried about the fort’s future – such as his reference to selecting a “master developer” for the property.

But Armbruster said the word “developer” need not conjure up images of high-rises or Atlantic City, N.J. “This place has been under development for 400 years,” he said.

Shiver described his work with two other military properties affected by earlier rounds of federal base closings – the Presidio in San Francisco, now under the management of a federally appointed trust, as well as NASA’s Ames Research Center and an adjoining naval air field in Silicon Valley. The research park there is a public-private partnership focusing on leasing property to technology startup companies and major tenants such as Carnegie Mellon University and Google Inc.

Shiver urged the authority to identify a master developer by 2010, a year before the Army’s departure, he said.

He said he wasn’t bothered by the meltdown in the financial sector. The authority will have to choose investors wisely, he said, but “You can’t do these plans based on the market at the moment.”

Kaine OKs Fort Monroe reuse plan, which will direct redevelopment

The future of the 570-acre Army post calls for preserving its history while building anew.


August 20, 2008, Daily Press

FORT MONROE – — Gov. Timothy M. Kaine on Tuesday approved a broad reuse plan that will allow Fort Monroe to become a combination tourist destination, park, and community of homes, offices and retail businesses.

An 18-member Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority has worked with consultants on the delicate act of preserving the post, which is a nationally registered landmark, while coming up with a plan to have it bring in enough revenue to pay for maintenance, restoration and improvements. The authority approved the plan in June and it was submitted to the governor for final approval.

“I am pleased with the work of the FMFADA over the past 18 months to create a plan for Fort Monroe that ensures this spectacular and historic property will be enjoyed by many generations to come,” Kaine said in a prepared statement. “I also am pleased that the process to create the reuse plan has included many community and regional leaders, experts in historic preservation and economic development, the city of Hampton, and the National Park Service.”

Kaine will sign the reuse plan at 9 a.m. today at the Chamberlin Hotel on the historic military installation and he will tour the post. The event is open to the public.

The reuse plan divides the post into management zones. Each zone has a recommended way the land could be used: as open space for a park, in a way that adapts existing buildings for some nonmilitary use, or as a site for new development. The authority will market the property with the goal of getting contracts and leases so the post remains a financially sustainable community, said authority Executive Director William A. Armbruster. Only during the contracting and leasing phase will it be clear what the future of each particular building or lot.

The 570-acre fort is revered as a coastal defense site dating back to Colonial times, as a beacon of freedom to slaves who fled there to be deemed contraband of the Civil War, and as an artillery training base from 1824 through World War II.

In 2005, the Pentagon announced that Fort Monroe would be closed as part of a military realignment to cut costs and modernize the military. The Army is expected to move out in September 2011 and the land will revert to the commonwealth.

The transition has piqued interest from people who see it for its historic importance and as a great location to live, work or play, a waterfront settlement of brick buildings, well-manicured lawns and a giant moated fortress.

Plan to preserve, develop Fort Monroe wins board’s OK

By Kate Wiltrout
The Virginian-Pilot
© July 1, 2008


A 65-page document envisioning a future for Fort Monroe after the Army’s departure won unanimous approval Monday from the board tasked with overseeing its transfer to civilian control.

Members of the Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority voted 15-0 to endorse a plan for the 570-acre waterfront base when the Army leaves in 2011. The plan now heads to the desk of Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, and eventually, to the Pentagon.

“We have essentially now accomplished our most important task, which was the core of our mission,” said Preston Bryant, Virginia’s secretary of natural resources and chairman of the authority.

The plan is based on five principles, including protection of the fort’s historic assets, public access, creation of a large-scale park, economic sustainability, and allowing new development only within strict limits.

The historic fort, home to the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, was selected for closure three years ago. Local and state officials have debated since then how to use the property, much of which is to revert to state control.

Some local residents want the spot to become part of the National Park Service. The service concluded last month in a preliminary study that the fort’s historic assets deserve protection, but stopped short of advocating its inclusion in the park system.

There is plenty of work to do before the Army leaves.

Bill Armbruster, the authority’s executive director, highlighted tasks that will dominate the next two years – drafting design guidelines and preservation regulations, and developing a plan to showcase the site’s history through exhibits.

The authority will expand to include a fourth employee, a project manager, whose salary will be covered by a $1.4 million grant from the Pentagon’s Office of Economic Adjustment that was announced Monday.

The board also approved the authority’s $1.89 million annual operating budget. About half the authority’s budget is allocated by the state and half comes from the Pentagon.

Col. Anthony Reyes, the base commander, told the authority that the Army Cadet Command won’t relocate to Fort Knox until 2011, a year later than anticipated. The base’s biggest tenant, the Training and Doctrine Command, will move to Fort Eustis in September of that year, days before the base formally leaves Army control on Sept. 15, 2011.

Preservation urged for Fort Monroe

Public forum looks at what to do after the post closes in 2011

Friday, Jun 13, 2008 – 12:08 AM Updated: 09:41 AM


Historic preservation, not development, was on the minds of people at last night’s public meeting on the future of historic Fort Monroe in Hampton. Fort Monroe will be closed as an active military post in 2011, and most of the 570-acre National Historic Landmark will revert to the state.

Virginia is trying to protect Fort Monroe’s history while making the landmark economically self-supporting by adapting it for reuse, said William A. Armbruster, executive director of the state’s Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority.

The Army held the public forum at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources in Richmond to hear what the public had to say about preserving the fort’s historic properties.

“We’d like to see the area open to the public,” said Sarah Pace, president of the Henrico County Historical Society, “and private ownership would really restrict public access.”

Harry Bradley of Richmond suggested putting together an African-American Civil War roundtable to make sure that the experience of black Americans at Fort Monroe gets told.

Annette Wetzel of Midlothian was concerned that subdivisions would hem in the nearly 200-year-old post.

“We’re concerned about the entire history, not just the Confederate history,” said Wetzel, with United Daughters of the Confederacy.

“Develop it and destroy the National Historic Landmark in the process,” said H.O. Malone of Hampton, with Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park in Hampton Roads.

Built to protect the entrance to Hampton Roads, Fort Monroe is one of the Army’s oldest posts. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960. Historically, the Civil War is the fort’s most significant period, though no structures built during that war remain.

In 1861, the fort earned the name “Freedom’s Fortress,” when escaped slaves found refuge there. Eventually thousands were granted freedom under the fort’s protection.

The fort remained in Union hands. Never attacked by the Confederates, it served as the staging area for assaults against Richmond and along the Confederate-dominated seaboard.

The post is home to the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command and other tenant units, with a population of about 4,000 soldiers and civilians. Training and Doctrine Command will move to Fort Eustis under the service’s base-closure plan. The Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority is a state agency charged with making recommendations on the post’s use after it closes.

The state wants to retain “the special qualities of this incredible place,” according to the authority.

Contact Peter Bacqué at (804) 649-6813 or pbacque@timesdispatch.com.

A national park for Fort Monroe

The Virginian-Pilot

FORT MONROE has outlived its usefulness as a military installation, according to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. But the 570-acre fort, whose history stretches back to the early 1600s and includes epic events in the formation and growth of our nation, has a bright and prosperous future as one of Virginia’s premiere tourism attractions, education centers and recreational parks – if local, state and federal leaders do not let the opportunity slip away.

In recent days, several key reports have been released that are likely to play critical roles in determining what will become of Fort Monroe when the U.S. Army departs in three years.

Among them is a preliminary reuse plan generated by the Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority, an 18-member group composed primarily of officials from the city of Hampton and state government.

The plan contains good news for those who grasp the tremendous economic potential in the fort’s historic and recreational assets. All but gone is the assumption – widespread in the months after the announcement of Fort Monroe’s pending shutdown – that the base’s open spaces must be heavily developed to pay for upkeep of the property and offset the effect of the base’s closure on the Hampton economy.

The authority’s consultants estimate annual maintenance costs would be about $4 million, far below the Army’s initial projections of $14 million. The consultants also predict that Fort Monroe’s history could attract 100,000 to 150,000 visitors annually and that its beachfront another 115,000 to 125,000.

There isn’t quite as much cause for celebration in a long-anticipated “reconnaissance study” by the National Park Service. Not surprisingly, the agency concluded that the fort is “an exceptionally important portal” through which to examine our nation’s history and is “worthy of preservation and protection.” Equally unsurprising is the conclusion that the cash-strapped agency is in no hurry to take on the job of preservation and protection.

The Park Service’s report recommends that Congress delay authorization of “a Special Resource Study,” a more comprehensive review that could lead to national park designation, until a reuse plan is approved by the redevelopment authority and by others engaged in the process.

Two major challenges now face local, state and federal leaders who recognize Fort Monroe’s rich but little-known history and can envision the day when it could join Colonial Williamburg, Jamestown and Yorktown as major attractions.

The obstacles, bluntly put, are (a) Fort Monroe is not likely to achieve its potential without the expertise, resources and reputation of the National Park Service and (b) the National Park Service is unlikely to become part of the project unless others contribute large sums of money.

In a meeting with The Pilot editorial board last week, Gov. Tim Kaine re-stated his administration’s commitment to preserving the fort’s historic assets, broadening public access to the site and laying the groundwork for a self-sustaining operation. He said “revenue maximization” – i.e., selling or leasing open spaces for development – “should not be goal one.” That’s good news.

Kaine, understandably, is unwilling to dip into the state’s treasury to help Fort Monroe build a partnership with the National Park Service. But Kaine and the General Assembly should be willing to marshal support from a wide range of groups – the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Civil War Preservation Trust and the National Parks Conservation Association, among others – to begin building a permanent funding mechanism for Fort Monroe. A similar venture has succeeded at The Presidio, a former military installation added to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area almost 15 years ago.

Fort Monroe has many stories to tell – stories about, among others, Capt. John Smith, Chief Black Hawk, the Monitor and the Merrimac, Edgar Allan Poe, Jefferson Davis, Harriet Tubman and three enslaved men, Frank Baker, Sheppard Mallory and James Townsend, whose brave actions at the fort played a direct role in the Emancipation Proclamation.

But none of those stories will be told as effectively or reach as broad an audience unless the National Park Service is involved in the next stage of Fort Monroe’s history, unless preservation groups commit resources to establishing a public trust for its protection, and unless local, state and federal leaders unite in the obvious – creating Fort Monroe National Park.

Fort Monroe ‘unlikely’ to become national park


HAMPTON — It’s unlikely the federal government will have money to maintain and operate all or even part of Fort Monroe as a national park, according to a National Park Service study released Tuesday.

“We would just be taking over a large building inventory,” said Terrence Moore, chief of park planning and special studies for the northeast region.

The Park Service has spent about seven months doing a preliminary study to see if it is feasible to turn Fort Monroe into a national park once the Army leaves in September 2011. U.S. Rep. Thelma Drake, a Norfolk Republican, requested $25,000 in federal funding for the study.

It is doubtful the entire 570-acre historic military base would qualify to be included as a national park, and even the moated area that includes a parade grounds and some buildings is unlikely to be included in the National Park System without “a strong and financially sustainable partner to offset a large percentage of any capital, maintenance and operational costs,” according to the study.

The cost of operating and maintaining the fort was cited as one of the most significant barriers.

The park service estimates there is $129.9million in deferred maintenance costs that need to be funded. Additionally, the park service calculated the Army’s annual maintenance and operations costs to be $34million.

“It is very clear even from this very preliminary sample of potential costs that it is unlikely that a Special Resource Study would find it feasible, in light of current and anticipated (park service) budget constraints, for the (park service) to manage, maintain and operate the full range of resources comprising Fort Monroe,” the study says. “In effect, (the park service) would simply act as Fort Monroe’s landlord undertaking its own reuse plan for extensive private uses of resources that may or may not be sustainable.”

The good news for a group that wants the base to be a national park is that the park service said Fort Monroe’s resources have significant historic value and likely warrant a more in-depth feasibility study that requires Congressional approval.

The park service went on to say that such a study should not be conducted until after the Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority submits a reuse plan that the Department of Defense has reviewed and approved.

The authority is charged with managing the property once the Army leaves. A draft of how the property could become a tourist destination is described in a reuse plan expected to be submitted to the Department of Defense in August or September.

“There is no question that Fort Monroe is rich in history — colonial history, military and maritime history, architectural history, and especially African-American history,” Drake said in a prepared statement. “The FMFADA and Comonwealth of Virginia, as the eventual stewards of Fort Monore, should work closely with the preservation and business communities, regional leaders, and other stakeholders to ensure that this property is appropriately reused and reaches its fullest potential.”

The Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park agrees with the assessment that Fort Monroe has the relevance and stature to be considered for national park status. They said a traditional park is not the answer.

“We urge Virginia’s leaders to work proactively to secure a Special Resource Study that is integrated with the subsequent effort to fully plan a self-sustaining grand public place at Fort Monroe for the benefit of all,” said Steven T. Corneliussen, vice president of citizens group.

L. Preston Bryant Jr., chairman of the development authority, said the study is a professional assessment of Fort Monroe, and brings up some key issues to consider “as we prepare plans not only to preserve it but highlight its tourism, educational and economic development promise.”

Cost to make Fort Monroe a national park

The National Park Services says it will cost $129.9 million to take care of deferred maintenance at Fort Monroe. Annual maintenance and operating costs for the Army is estimated to be $34 million. Preliminary staffing costs for a national park at Fort Monroe would be $7.47 million, including:

  • $650,000 for the Casemate Museum
  • $1.2 million for law enforcement
  • $840,000 for management and administration
  • $915,000 for resource management
  • $1.6 million for facility management
  • $1 million for information management
  • $965,000 for business services and leasing
  • $304,500 for safety office

Source: National Park Service Reconnaissance Study of Fort Monroe, May 2008

Latest plans for Fort Monroe draw kudos, some skepticism

The future of the central section of the 570-acre post is still the main cause of dispute.


May 28, 2008

The newest snapshot of the future of Fort Monroe has blurry spots, but even some of the most outspoken critics of the planning effort are offering kudos.

“This new plan is much, much better than the one in 2006. There’s a lot that you can agree with,” said H.O. Malone, president of the grass-roots organization Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park.

But Malone said that because so much is up in the air, the plan does not carry a ton of real world significance.

“This is not the reuse plan — this is a placeholder,” Malone said.

Bill Armbruster is the executive director of the locally based state panel that is tasked with plotting the future of the 570-acre outpost. He said the plan offered today and the feedback gathered from citizens sets the course for a revitalized Monroe.

“It gives us a blueprint,” said Armbruster, who heads up the Federal Area Development Authority. “They’ll be a lot of details to follow, but we know the direction that the plan is taking us.”

The Army is set to leave Fort Monroe in 2011 as part of the base closing process that moved much of the outpost’s military population to new areas, including Fort Eustis.

State and local officials completed a draft plan for the future of the base in November 2006, but that plan drew criticism for envisioning potential residential development north of the old stone fort. After developing the earlier plan, the local panel was beefed up by the General Assembly into an 18-member committee with state appointees and cabinet-level advisers to the governor.

That panel is tasked with giving Gov. Timothy M. Kaine a plan for Fort Monroe this summer and moving on to Washington by September. The panel is trying to balance the importance of historic artifacts and structures, with raising enough money to cover the cost of maintaining the entire outpost.

“We want to keep as much open space as possible,” Armbruster said. “But it needs to be economically sustainable.”

The reuse plan deals primarily in general, overarching concepts rather then ironclad specific ideas for each building and piece of the post that has been a significant strategic center for Hampton Roads dating back to the early 1600s. The blueprints for the future are somewhat vague, but give overall themes for how sections of the base could look in the future.

The plan suggests that the northern end of the park — near the southern tip of Buckroe Beach — would likely be best if preserved as an open beach, public park and wetlands refuge. Meanwhile, houses along the southern edge would get facelifts and be leased out as homes and office buildings, the marina would be revamped and expanded and the fort could be used as a historical center.

The main dispute, however, is what to do with the central portion of the base just to the north of the moat — known as the Wherry Housing district. Grassroots groups, such as the Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park, want to see that area preserved as open park space, but some officials say the only way to keep the fort from turning into a major financial drain is to build some new homes and businesses.

The three versions of the initial plan were essentially the same overall with different levels of new neighborhoods in Wherry.

Armbruster and officials from the grassroots organization are also anxiously awaiting the results of a study by the National Park Service to see if the historic post could be turned into a national park. Officials said they have heard that the study is finished and they expect the results to be released soon.

History, real estate complicate Fort Monroe transfer

By the Associated Press
The Daily Press
© March 30, 2008

HAMPTON, Va. – Nearly three years after the government said it would leave Fort Monroe, a draft agreement has emerged specifying how the historic property will be managed after 2011.

But it’s only the beginning.

State and federal officials say the 570-acre peninsula smothered in history is not an easy thing to convey.

A draft of the agreement is 45 pages long, and only will grow longer, said Kathleen Kilpatrick, the state historic preservation officer. The agreement is subject to public comments and more than 30 “consulting parties” involved in the process.

“It’s a very strong agreement,” Kilpatrick said. “It’s very preservation-friendly, while recognizing that preservation depends on creating economic sustainability to support your culture.”

Fort Monroe remained in Union hands during the Civil War. Escaped slaves sought sanctuary there, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis was imprisoned at the base for two years.

Most of the property would revert to state control when the Army moves its personnel to Fort Eustis and Fort Knox, Ky.

Kilpatrick said the three guiding principals are: respect the fort’s historic assets, provide public access, and cover the cost of running what’s essentially a small town.

The strictest rules would apply to everything within the moat-encircled stone fort built in the 1830s. Development at the grassy, eastern end of the base would be permitted, if it maintained the same scale, density and characteristics as its surroundings.

The Army would assist negotiations for a long-term loan of the collections at the Casemate Museum. The museum, built inside the cavernous stone halls of the fort, preserves the cell where Davis was held.

As part of the agreement, the Army would do more archaeological testing in search of the Freedmen’s Cemetery rumored to have existed on base.

The Union general in charge during the Civil War decreed that escaped slaves be considered contraband of war, and granted them freedom inside the fort.

While the 45 pages have been slow in coming, some are fearful the pace is too quick.

H.O. Malone, a retired Army historian who heads Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park, said he doesn’t like how fast the agreement is coming together, and be believes the focus instead should be on exactly who gets jurisdiction after the Army leaves.

“They’re putting the cart before the horse,” he said.

Director’s experience ideal for Fort Monroe

William Armbruster says he wants the post to continue to be a “living community.

By Matthew Sturdevant | 247-7874

HAMPTON — Asked about all the live artillery and shells in Fort Monroe’s soil, William A. Armbruster nodded knowingly. He’s familiar with environmental issues at military bases, including microscopic shrimp at one base and radiated horse carcasses found on the grounds of an Army hospital.

Environmental concerns are one of many considerations in the future use of Monroe, which Armbruster will oversee as new executive director of the Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority.

Armbruster replaces interim Executive Director Conover Hunt. Armbruster, 72 — who signed a three-year contract for $150,000 a year — “emerged as one of the top two candidates,” said Robert Harper, a member of the four-member committee that oversaw the hiring of a new executive director.

Armbruster’s job, essentially, is to piece together a complicated puzzle of politics, logistics and bureaucracy to plan a future use for Monroe.

As part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process, the Army plans to close Fort Monroe by September 2011.

The challenge after that is arranging for Monroe to be open to the public, yet still raise enough money to pay for annual expenditures, including maintenance of a hamlet of historic buildings and moated fortress.

The military base on the Chesapeake Bay off Hampton has attracted interest from those who see business opportunity at Monroe and those who want to see it as a national park.

The authority has an 18-member board that includes appointees of Hampton, Virginia’s House of Delegates and Senate, and governor’s Cabinet.

The authority is charged with studying, planning and recommending the best use of facilities at the post once the property transfers to the state in 2011. It’s guided by three points: keep Monroe open to the public, respect the rich history and advance economic sustainability.

Armbruster is familiar with widespread interest in the future of former military bases.

He spent the past six years as deputy secretary of the Army for privatization and partnerships.

A big part of his job involved overseeing the privatization of residential housing for the Army by transferring deeds of buildings — but not the land — in exchange for restoration and renovations.

The Army put in about $970million in equity — the housing — in return for about $9.8billion in private capital, almost a 10-to-1 return.

Armbruster said housing wasn’t one of the Army’s primary goals, which is why it made sense to privatize.

“There were always higher priority for those dollars,” he said of the Army’s budget to maintain housing.

While deputy secretary, Armbruster encouraged cooperation between administrators at Army posts and nearby communities, so they could share services or promote each other.

He also was in charge of the Office of Historic Properties, meaning all buildings of historic value owned by the Army.

His experience was exactly what the Fort Monroe authority was looking for, said L. Preston Bryant Jr., the authority’s chairman. And Armbruster has arrived at a particularly active time in the planning.

In the next 90 days, the Army and the authority are expected to agree to a list of management guidelines for maintaining the historic integrity of Monroe. The authority will also receive a study of tourism opportunities at the post and an analysis of annual operating costs.

Both reports will be incorporated into a tentative reuse plan.

All the more reason for a three-year contract. “We have so much going on,” Bryant said. “We needed a long-term commitment.”

Armbruster has a background that includes working on the civilian and Army side of the Base Realignment and Closure process.

As an Army deputy secretary, he worked with 25 military installations affected by BRAC.

In the mid-1990s, he was a town councilman and businessman in Blackstone who worked on an adaptive reuse of Fort Pickett.

He was executive director of a five-county reuse authority for Pickett and the Fort Pickett Redevelopment Authority.

Armbruster said he was successful in bringing the Virginia National Guard to Pickett and other operations, such as a business incubator, several small businesses and satellite operations for universities.

Looking around Fort Monroe, he said there were a lot of possibilities that balanced the goals of keeping it open to the public and making enough money to pay the bills.

“There will be no shortage of interested parties,” he said. “This is a living community now, and we want it to be a living community.”

William A. Armbruster

  • New executive director of the Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority
  • Born July 1, 1935, in Arlington
  • Married with two sons, one daughter, seven grandsons
  • Makes his home in Kilmarnock but will be living at Fort Monroe
  • Graduated in June 1957 with a bachelor of arts in government from the College of William and Mary
  • Retired in 1984 as a captain and intelligence officer after 26 years in the Navy
  • Has a master’s degree in international affairs from George Washington University
  • Blackstone town councilman from 1992 to 1995
  • Worked from 1994 to 2001 on Base Realignment and Closure matters affecting Fort Pickett
  • Executive director of a five-county reuse authority for Fort Pickett from 1994 to 1996
  • Executive director of the Fort Pickett Redevelopment Authority from 1996 to 2001
  • Deputy assistant Army secretary from 2002 to 2008

Fort Monroe documentary screened in New York


10:14 AM EST, February 5, 2008, Daily Press

The film explores the history, reviews the debate and considers the future of the historic fort which the U.S. Army plans to vacate by 2011. It was directed by Amy Broad of Rock Eagle Productions and produced by the Center for Regional Citizenship, a WHRO initiative designed to engage Hampton Roads citizens in discussions of local interest.

Founded in 1993, The New York International Independent Film and Video Festival is the largest film festival in the world.

See new exhibit at Casemate open house Thursday

By MARK ST. JOHN ERICKSON – 757-247-4783

5:25 PM EST, January 14, 2008, Daily Press

HAMPTON – The Casemate Museum at Fort Monroe will hold an open house 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. Thursday to showcase a new permanent exhibit exploring the historic Union bastion’s pivotal role during the Civil War.

Funded by the Casemate Museum Foundation, the exhibit will use period artifacts, models and interpretative signage to highlight the fort’s links to such famous events as the 1862 battle between the USS Monitor and CSS Virginia — also known as the Merrimack. Other subjects include the post’s crucial military role as the staging ground for numerous invasions of the South as well as Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler’s historic 1861 decision to harbor fleeing black slaves as contraband of war.

Among the artifacts that will be on view are Butler’s mess chest, a mallet from the CSS Virginia and a pass box from the USS Cumberland, which was destroyed off Newport News by the Virginia during the Battle of Hampton Roads. The exhibit also will include models of the famed ironclads as well as a collection of Civil War weapons.

“The purpose of this open house is to reach out to the public outside the gates of Fort Monroe and connect them with this new exhibit,” museum director Paul Morando said.

“More importantly, we want to express that the Casemate Museum is open and will continue to produce new exhibits and public programs in order to ensure that the public appreciates the rich history of the United States Army and Fort Monroe.”

The Casemate is located at 20 Bernard Road inside the Fort Monroe moat. Hours are 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily. Free. Call 757-788-3391 or log onto to www.monroe.army.mil for more information


Fort Monroe should become museum

Experts want it to include a techno-savvy facility that tells the story of the struggle for freedom.

By Kim O’Brien Root – 928-6473
January 5, 2008, Daily Press

FORT MONROE – The center of Fort Monroe should become a unique museum campus telling the story of the place where slavery began to die and freedom began to take hold, history scholars have recommended.

The recommendation, made to the group overseeing the Army post’s future, came Friday after a two-day symposium at the Hampton History Museum. The symposium was the first of several being organized by the Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority as it figures out what to do with the 570-acre property on the Chesapeake Bay.

Monroe — home to the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC — is scheduled to close in 2011, part of the military’s Base Realignment and Closure plan. An 18-member authority that includes residents, lawmakers, and historic-preservation and tourism experts has been meeting to find the best use for the history-rich post.

In September, the president of the Richmond-based Museum of the Confederacy proposed opening a branch of the museum at Fort Monroe. The plan presented Friday greatly expands on that: It calls for an innovative techno-savvy museum that would tell the Civil War’s story not only from the viewpoint of slaves who found freedom behind the post’s walls but from the perspectives of Union soldiers stationed there and of Southern citizens and troops.

During the war, Fort Monroe became refuge to as many as 10,000 escaped slaves seeking protection in the Union-controlled site. The influx later brought Northern missionaries and immigrants, who settled in and around Monroe to create schools and help freed slaves begin new lives.

Speaking on Friday on behalf of the 12 scholars who attended the symposium, Robert Francis Engs — a history professor at the University of Pennsylvania who has written books about black history in Hampton — said the moated fort and its surrounding area should be preserved as a national or state park.

A museum campus would be created inside the moated area. Although the scholars envision a campus that could tell tales of many periods in American history, the first museum should be about the Civil War and American freedom, Engs said.

The museum could join forces with TRADOC and the Museum of the Confederacy to develop exhibits, and it should incorporate the black community in planning and development, Engs said. There are likely invaluable things in basements and attics across Hampton that would need to be treated with respect, he said.

“The consensus was that Fort Monroe is, quite simply, a national treasure that needs to be preserved,” said Engs, speaking of the scholars’ recommendations.

The scholars’ proposal, which also suggests that the existing Casemate Museum remain and be expanded, was met enthusiastically by members of the authority, as well as by other museum experts.

Charles H. Cureton, the Army’s chief of museums and historic property, called the plan “an all-important step in the right direction” and a unique idea whose theme of freedom would appeal nationally and internationally.

“I feel we are out of the gate and on the right track,” said Kanata Jackson of Hampton, a citizen member of the authority. “We’re in the position of setting forth for the nation something we can be proud of.”

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