2009 Articles, Editorials, Letters to the Editor

Park Service sees Fort Monroe as a major tourist attraction for the area

By David Macaulay 247-7838

11:19 p.m. EST, November 19, 2009

HAMPTON — Congress will be asked to create a national park covering historic parts of Fort Monroe following a landmark vote by the body investigating the base’s use after the Army moves out in 2011.

The board of the Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Agency (FMFADA) voted unanimously Thursday to make parts of the site a unit of the National Park Service by requesting that state leaders work with Congress to draft and pass legislation.

Under the resolution adopted Thursday, the state has the option to retain ownership of the land at Fort Monroe.

But the National Park Service would not run the entire 565-acre site. Partnerships would be formed with other agencies for the use of less historically important parts of Fort Monroe.

John Quarstein, chairman of the National Park Service Review Panel, announced the panel’s findings at Thursday’s meeting.

“We recognized very strongly that Fort Monroe provided something, not just for the city of Hampton or Hampton Roads or the commonwealth of Virginia, but for our nation, because of the tremendously significant activities that occurred here,” he said.

“We wanted to make it very clear that the presence of the NPS allows the commonwealth of Virginia to retain ownership of the land,” he said.

Quarstein said Fort Monroe offered an important tourism opportunity for Hampton Roads.

“The NPS offers a wide variety of resources,” he said, adding that the park service has a long track record in running stone fortifications as visitor attractions.

The final boundaries of a national park will be studied later, but it would include features such as the old fort and batteries.

The Army would continue to run the Casemate Museum.

Quarstein said FMFADA will be working on partnerships with other groups for projects on Fort Monroe.

“It has been used in many ways by the U.S. Army, and the park is just one of the few components that will help us build a great tourism site,” he said.

FMFADA Chairman L. Preston Bryant Jr. applauded the vote.

“Today, the board endorsed an expanded role for the National Park Service at Fort Monroe that also preserves the state’s ownership of the property and adheres to Gov. Kaine’s goals that we respect Fort Monroe’s history, keep it open to the public, maintain open space, and make it as economically sustainable as possible,” Bryant said.

“Economic sustainability must include tourism, adaptive reuse of existing buildings and limited new construction,” he said. “We must be able to begin those economic activities as soon as the Army leaves in September 2011.”

The decision was welcomed by Steve Corneliussen, of Citizens for Fort Monroe National Park, who said he was originally concerned the site might have been given over to the city of Hampton for housing development.

“This is a red-letter day for Fort Monroe,” he said.

What would be in the national park

  • Old Quarters Number 1
  • Historic fort
  • Moat
  • Outer works
  • Batteries Parrot and Irwin
  • Radar Station on the parapets

Fort Monroe group requests national park status

By Kate Wiltrout
The Virginian-Pilot
© November 20, 2009


The group that will manage Fort Monroe after the Army leaves voted Thursday to try to have certain sections of the post designated a unit of the National Park Service.

The board of the Fort Monroe development authority, a state-appointed entity, asked the state to work with Congress to pass legislation giving national park status to the historic fort, moat and outer works; Old Quarters No. 1; the radar station on the parapets; and Batteries Parrot and Irwin, according to a news release. The authority would manage and redevelop other areas according to a reuse plan.

It’s not clear whether Congress and the park service will approve the plan.

Authority Chairman L. Preston Bryant Jr. said the move endorses “an expanded role for the National Park Service at Fort Monroe that also preserves the state’s ownership of the property and adheres to Governor Kaine’s goals that we respect Fort Monroe’s history, keep it open to the public, maintain open space, and make it as economically sustainable as possible.”

The Army is scheduled to leave the fort in 2011 as part of the most recent round of military base closings.


Vision for Fort Monroe taking shape

The Virginian-Pilot
© September 25, 2009
By Jaedda Armstrong


Walking or riding a bike through nature trails that wind through acres of vivid forests. Attending an animal habitats exhibit at a nature education center. Watching blue jays flutter across the sky at one of the top bird-watching sites in Virginia.

That’s the Historic Preservation Advisory Group’s vision for parts of Fort Monroe after the Army base closes in 2011.

On base at the Bay Breeze Community Center on Thursday, Jim Beard, the group’s co-chairman, shared recommendations with the Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority about what to do with the open space that makes up nearly half of the facility’s 570 acres.

At the eastern edge of Hampton, Fort Monroe has been slated to be turned into a mix of residential, retail and office buildings. The plan also sets aside 220 acres as public green space, and about another 100 acres are classified as “undetermined.”

Fort Monroe’s closure was announced in 2005, and the Army will leave in 2011. Most of the land, which has unobstructed views of the Chesapeake Bay, will revert to the state. Notable historic properties on the site include the stone fort, the Old Point Comfort Lighthouse and The Chamberlin, a former hotel that is now an apartment complex targeted to senior citizens.

Advocates for creation of a national park at Fort Monroe to preserve the historical sites were given a nod of support from the Hampton City Council on Wednesday night. The council adopted a resolution that it was committed to continued recognition and protection of the fort’s status as a National Historic Landmark.

“There’s going to be some development, but we are committed to keeping Fort Monroe open and protecting the 400 years of history here,” Bill Armbruster, the development authority’s executive director, said at the meeting.

Other recommendations that Beard proposed for the open space was to host festivals and sporting events, have an open beach and add boat launches.

The authority’s consultants estimate that the total capital investment for the redevelopment of Fort Monroe would cost about $500 million. The consultants also predict that Fort Monroe’s cultural and recreational activities could attract about 225,000 visitors annually and open about 3,000 jobs to the area.


Programmatic agreement signing establishes preservation guidelines for historic Fort Monroe

By Fort Monroe Press Release

Twenty-seven distinct consulting parties have been invited to add their concurring signatures to the historic fort’s official Programmatic Agreement, affirmed last month by the Army and five primary signatory parties. The PA provides a formal road map for the installation’s transfer out of federal ownership, the consequent disposal of excess and surplus property, and the conduct of environmental remediation.

Primary signatories included the Department of the Army, the Virginia State Historic Preservation Officer, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority, and the National Park Service.

Consulting parties may join the signing ceremony at 2 p.m. Monday at Fort Monroe’s Bay Breeze Community Center, where several upcoming Army mitigation procedures also will be discussed. The event is open to the general public.

As a consequence of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure decision, the Army will close Fort Monroe in September 2011. In order to fulfill its responsibilities under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, the Army entered into consultation with stakeholders. The purpose was to review the closure and to establish rules and boundaries that will help mitigate, reduce or avoid adverse effects on the installation’s significant number of historic properties.

The PA establishes preservation guidelines for whoever ultimately becomes the property’s steward. The subsequent management structure will allow the final owner of the property a framework of legally-defensible “fence posts” that will guide both future development and historic preservation on Fort Monroe. In this way, the PA satisfies the Army’s obligations under Section 106, and also provides a lawful, binding agreement that all stakeholders have been given an opportunity to shape. The Army ensured that the PA process incorporated community outreach in every step of development, offering periodic public workshops in Hampton, Norfolk, Richmond and Washington, D.C. The community has been kept apprised of the PA process through recurrent media announcements and a publically-accessible BRAC Web site, hosted by Fort Monroe.

Several keys to proper and successful management of the property were identified by the Army, the consulting parties and the public. These include the preservation of the post as a whole, retention of the post’s overall character and quality, and recognition that areas of the installation possess their own unique features, character, and qualities.

Ultimately, the property was divided into six “Management Zones” – well-defined boundaries that share preservation goals and limitations while simultaneously encouraging flexible, individualized treatment options.

The PA is framed in three primary segments that designate Army mitigation responsibilities, FMFADA responsibilities, and Commonwealth of Virginia responsibilities. Army mitigation responsibilities, some of which will be discussed on June 1, include:

  1. Completion of a Cultural Landscape study documenting the evolution of the land at Fort Monroe from its earliest known occupation to the present;
  2. Completion of a Viewshed Analysis identifying significant areas of particular scenic or historic value;
  3. Submission of a National Historic Landmark District Nomination revision designed to more accurately identify the buildings, structures, objects, archaeological sites, historic viewsheds and landscape features that contribute to the Fort Monroe NHL District;
  4. Submission of revised National Register of Historic Places nomination forms for four individually-eligible properties: the Chapel of the Centurion, Lee’s Quarters (where Robert E. Lee lived as a young lieutenant), Quarters One (constructed in 1817) and the stone fort itself;
  5. Conducting additional archaeological testing to identify any remnant of the former Freedmen’s (Contraband) Cemetery;
  6. Establishing procedures to assure the successful transfer of installation administrative records to the FMFADA;
  7. Completion of a “Mothballing Plan” for historic properties that have been, or will remain, vacant for 12 months or longer.

Fort Monroe was designated a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior in 1960. It encompasses roughly 570 acres, including the moat-encircled stone fort, built between 1819 and 1834, the recently restored Historic Chamberlin (a resort hotel turned independent living community) and the Old Point Comfort Lighthouse. Both the Chamberlin and the lighthouse are separately inventoried on the National Register of Historic Places. A total of 189 other buildings, structures, objects and landscapes comprise the Fort Monroe NHL District.

Fort Monroe is strategically situated at the entrance to Hampton Roads in southeast Virginia. Historically, it was dubbed the “Gibraltar of the Chesapeake” for its role in protecting access to the rivers feeding the Chesapeake Bay. The post is home to a number of commands, among them the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, Accessions Command, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Command, Joint Task Force – Civil Support (part of Homeland Security), and the Installation Management Command for the northeastern United States.



Layers of Possibilities

Among the many layers of plans and studies that influence the future of Fort Monroe is an effort by the National Park Service Working Group. The group is looking at all possibilities of how the 570-acre military base might operate, if only in part, as a national park. The group is expected to give a full report in July to the Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority, which has control over the future of the base once the Army vacates in September 2011.

Hampton Notebook
April 7, 2009

Contact Matthew Sturdevant by e-mail at msturdevant@dailypress.com,


Board toasts agreement on Fort Monroe transition

A 2005 aerial view of Fort Monroe in Hampton. The Civil War Preservation Trust puts the fort on its lists of endangered and at-risk battlefields. (Stephen M. Katz | The Virginian-Pilot)

Interactive: What does the future hold for Fort Monroe?

By Kate Wiltrout
The Virginian-Pilot
© March 20, 2009

Members of the state-appointed board overseeing Fort Monroe’s transition from Army to civilian control congratulated one another Thursday for completing a “major milestone.”

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine will soon sign the “programmatic agreement” that legally binds signatories to protect the fort’s historic assets, said Bill Armbruster, the executive director of the Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority.

Other signatories include the Army, the National Park Service, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

“This is the document that is going to guide what we can and cannot do” with the fort’s historic properties, Armbruster said Thursday. The Army will vacate the waterfront base in Hampton in 2011.

The drafting process involved extensive public input and dozens of “consulting parties,” including Hampton University, the Diocese of Richmond, the Norfolk Historical Society, and Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park. But the public and consulting parties don’t yet know what the agreement says – or even how long it is. It will be made public after Kaine signs it, Armbruster said.

In other developments:

  • The Civil War Preservation Trust released its list of 25 endangered and at-risk battlefields this week. Fort Monroe wasn’t one of the 10 most endangered, but it did make the “at-risk” list.
    The organization noted that the state, preservation groups and citizens continue to grapple with “how best to balance protecting the site’s historic character with allowing for economic development.” Commercial real estate agents will get to hear about balancing those sometimes-competing interests next week.
    Joshua Gillespie, the development authority’s project manager, will speak Thursday to the Hampton Roads Association for Commercial Real Estate. Gillespie will talk about the vision for the fort’s reuse and how to implement it. According to the association, his talk is titled “Development Considerations & Opportunities at Fort Monroe.”
  • David Shiver of Bay Area Economics, a California firm hired to analyze economic development possibilities, recommended targeting the fort’s housing units for military families and for visiting faculty and graduate students at local universities.
    Shiver also suggested luring an “anchor tenant” to the 570-acre base. He suggested promoting “green” or “clean” industries, as well as commercial tenants with ties to the military and NASA.
  • Before any new occupants can inhabit Fort Monroe, the Department of Defense must ensure it isn’t leaving unexploded ordnance buried beneath areas that could be developed, or lodged in the sand close to shore.
    Exactly how far offshore to search for old munitions is the subject of debate between the Army on one hand and the state Department of Environmental Quality and the development authority on the other.
    The Army proposes looking for unexploded ordnance out to the 3-foot water line; the Department of Environmental Quality and the authority would like a larger search.

Lawmakers see profit potential at Monroe

Some legislators think that the Hampton post could bring in money after the Army leaves.


January 24, 2009

RICHMOND – Cash-strapped state lawmakers eyed a post-military Fort Monroe on Friday, wondering why Hampton’s historic Army site can’t be turned into a moneymaker immediately.

“There’s a lot of land that you could sell to developers,” said Del. Johnny Joannou, D-Portsmouth. “They’d be banging down your door.”

In an amicable but pointed back-and-forth, the officials shepherding Monroe to a new mission walked the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee through the extended and complex transition process.

Secretary of Natural Resources L. Preston Bryant chairs the panel guiding the property to a new use. Bryant said lawmakers needed to understand that there was a delicate balance between conservation and bringing in enough money to cover maintenance costs. The historic 570-acre post was recognized as a strategic spot as far back as the early 1600s.

But the Army has to leave the post by September 2011 as the Defense Department reshuffles.

Bryant cautioned that deadline gave the state less than 1,000 days to set the table for the future.

He warned that not adequately preparing could end up boosting the future cost of converting the post.

“We are, in effect, inheriting a small town, and we have a budding staff of four,” Bryant said. “The last thing we want is to see a padlock go on the gates in 2011.”

The detailed presentation was designed to keep the lawmakers who hold the state’s purse strings up to date on a wide range of approaching hurdles and federal deadlines.

Bryant laid out the post’s geography and assets, giving lawmakers a crash course in the history of the site and the mixture of wetlands, historic areas and open space. He also highlighted the potential for making money by leasing existing buildings and beefing up the marina.

Bryant said he understood that the economy was rough. But he noted that the Monroe panel asked Gov. Timothy M. Kaine for $3.1 million this year — but was slated to get only $1.6 million. Bryant said revenues wouldn’t offset maintenance costs until probably 2017. “We’re asking for a bridge loan,” he said.

The presentation largely reignited a debate that has raged on the Peninsula and throughout Hampton Roads since Monroe was marked for closure in 2005.

No one wants the post to become an economic drain on the state, but there are serious concerns about aggressive development outside the moated fort.

Del. Clarke Hogan, R-Hailfax, said the post appeared to be a huge windfall for the state. “How could this possibly be costing us money?” Hogan asked.

Bryant explained that the Army infrastructure wasn’t up to snuff in many cases and required upgrades to everything from roads and sewers to electrical boxes. The military is on the hook for cleaning the post of military ordnance, but once headaches are solved, the site should become a jewel.

It’s “not in the commonwealth’s best interests to be selling off their assets,” Bryant said.

Del. Phil Hamilton, R-Newport News, said the exchanges in Richmond showed local lawmakers needed to work to ensure that their colleagues understood the challenges at Monroe and the pending decisions. Hamilton, who’s on the board overseeing the transfer, said, “This is the same discussion and debate that those of us involved have been having.”



Legislators hear of cost of taking over Fort Monroe

By Julian Walker
The Virginian-Pilot
© January 23, 2009


Virginia will lose $4 million to $5 million annually for the first few years after it takes control of the Fort Monroe property in Hampton from the U.S. Army, a state official told House leaders Friday.

Federal officials decided to close the base in 2005; it will become state property when the Army vacates in 2011. The 570-acre property is planned for redevelopment as for residential and commercial uses, and preserved as a historic site.

“For the first five years we expect to be run a deficit,” state Secretary of Natural Resources L. Preston Bryant Jr. told the House Appropriations committee. “By 2017, we’ll be turning a ‘so-called’ profit.”



Fort Monroe officials looking for $96.5M upgrade

The authority teams up with Hampton to ask Congress for infrastructure funds to prepare for 2011 turnover.

January 6, 2009

HAMPTON – The authority that governs Fort Monroe’s future is asking Congress for $96.5million in federal funding for a variety of infrastructure upgrades that local officials say will help stimulate $436million in private capital during the first decade after the Army vacates in September 2011.

Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority Executive Director Bill Armbruster said the 570-acre historic military base needs upgrades to its streets, electrical system, wastewater system, stormwater drainage and gas systems in order to comply with municipal infrastructure standards as well as standards required by Virginia’s Department of Transportation and utility providers.

“If we’re going to be successful in attracting people … we’ve got to have a dependable water, wastewater system,” Armbruster said.

The authority is also asking the federal government to continue with flood protection measures at Fort Monroe, which has so far included a seawall on the southern end.

Armbruster wants federal dollars to pay for offshore breakwaters along the side of the post that faces Hampton Roads and the Chesapeake Bay. He also wants money to replenish about 4,800 feet of beach.

The authority is teaming up with the city of Hampton and the state in requesting funds for Fort Monroe as part of a federal economic stimulus package. President-elect Barack Obama met with congressional leaders Monday in Washington, D.C., and called for a quick, bipartisan remedy for an ailing economy.

Armbruster said, “Our analysis indicates that this investment in federal dollars can stimulate $436million in private capital and generate a total of 1,130 jobs. Hampton Mayor (Molly Joseph) Ward and I jointly met with members of our congressional delegation and they are all eager to bring jobs to Hampton Roads. This funding request will be part of the federal economic stimulus package because the majority of the work can be completed in two years.”

The cost estimates came from work done by consultants hired by the authority, Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc., which specializes in infrastructure such as roadways, bridges, land developments, water and sewer systems.

Armbruster will talk about the request to Congress today during the authority’s regular meeting.

He has also stressed that, as of today, there are only 980 days left before the Army vacates. He would like to see the infrastructure work funded soon, because it will likely take two to five years to complete. The authority wants the waterfront post to transition smoothly into its next role, and the infrastructure changes are necessary to get basic services to the people who will live, work or play there.

The hundreds of millions of dollars expected in private capital will come from those who lease property and spend money either on renovations or new construction during the first decade the authority manages Fort Monroe, Armbruster said.

Fort Monroe authority’s request to Congress

  • $96.5 million — total amount requested
  • $20 million — to pay for 10 detached offshore breakwaters along the side of the post facing Hampton Roads and the Chesapeake Bay, as well as berms across the fort and near Mill Creek, and devices that keep stormwater from flowing backward up the pipes to the streets.
  • $15 million — to upgrade 442 manholes, five major wastewater pumping stations and nine minor wastewater pumping stations as well as upgrades to the sanitary sewer system.
  • $10 million — for upgrades to the water system, including 57 new fire hydrants and water meters for dozens of buildings that don’t have meters, and a pumping station.
  • $6 million — to replace 61,000 feet of the gas system.
  • $15 million — to replenish 4,800 feet of beach “along the entire Chesapeake Bay coastline of Fort Monroe.”
  • $4.94 million — to upgrade 57,000 feet of storm sewers as well as pipes.
  • $4 million — to keep soil from seeping through riprap and repair the area near McNair Drive as well as sidewalks, parking-lot resurfacing, street reconstruction and signs.

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