Tuesday, December 21, 2010

TOP STORY > >Housing on track at Air Force base

Leader senior staff writer

Senior Little Rock Air Force Base officers and their families are moved into 166 new houses where two years ago, a failed builder left only Tyvek-wrapped husks, abandoned on wind-blown streets.

Long-since bulldozed, all that remains of Carabetta Inc.’s failed American Eagle housing-privatization effort is the 25 homes completed over three years before the Air Force locked them out and the banks cut them off.

But in November 2008, Hunt-Pinnacle bought out American Eagle’s multi-million-dollar contract and set conscientiously about building 141 new stand-alone homes and renovating an additional 834 housing units. Of those, 570 are completed.

The contractors agreed to build the housing in return for rental income.

“All of the new construction is complete,” said Mary Holliday-Sopko, the Cabot native who manages the properties for Pinnacle. “We just received back (from the builders) the last 10 senior-leadership four-bedroom, beautiful homes,” she said. “Lakeside homes.”

“We are projected to be completed by the end of March. We’ve just turned over the 12th and last phase to be renovated.”

The final part will be the completion of the grading and drainage, she said.

“By the end of June, everything should be complete. (Hunt Construction) is still ahead of schedule,” she said.

Occupancy for the available units is 93 percent, she said. “When we got here it was 79 percent.

“Everything we’re renting is renovated or new. Everyone is much happier. I wish we had new homes for everyone. We just did our annual survey and it looks like we’re much higher in satisfaction with the quality of the homes—10 percent higher than last year.”

Holliday-Sopko said a dog park would be opening in January, acrosss from the welcome center.

At the time it took over the project, now dubbed The Landings at Little Rock, the Hunt-Pinnacle partnership had built 67,000 military housing units.

Pinnacle also managed 175,000 units nationwide, including 15,000 military units on 20 different bases.

The Little Rock Landings was part of a package deal that also included failed Carabetta projects at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia, Hanscomb in Maryland and Patrick in Florida.

In 2003, American Eagle Communities won an Air Force privatization contract to demolish about 500 homes, build 468 new housing units and remodel 732.

But by May 2007, when the bankers pulled the plug on American Eagle for nonperformance, only the 25 homes had been completed, another 25 started and perhaps 50 concrete slabs poured.

Subcontractors and suppliers were owed millions of dollars at Little Rock AFB and the other three air Force bases where American Eagle had won privatization contracts.