Leaders of the V.I. Army and Air National Guard on St. Croix will soon have a state-of-the-art facility to call home. A groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday marked the beginning of construction for the Joint Forces Headquarters (JFHQ) building in the Estate Bethlehem military compound.
Approximately 50 people showed up for the ceremony, as well as honored guest Lt. Gen. William E. Ingram Jr., director of the Army National Guard, who is visiting St. Croix from the Guard’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.
In his remarks Ingram said, “As we go into the next era of constrained budgets, you were just at the right place at the right time to get this project to where it needed to be.”
Ingram was referring to the funding of the two-story building for $20.9 million, which was awarded in September 2011 to Tip Top Construction after a five-year bidding process. The Department of Defense recently announced that they will be cutting back defense funding over the next few years.
While the 57,439 square-foot building might be considered excessive, it is designed to withstand a hurricane or earthquake, according to Jacobs Engineering Group Division Vice President Pankaj Duggal, whose company designed the building.
“We programmed, planned, and designed this building to meet the National Guard criteria,” Duggal said. The high performance building “can withstand 145 mile-per-hour hurricane winds, and it also meets seismic requirements,” he said.
The new building, which will be finished in late 2013 or early 2014, will house the Office of the Adjutant General and Army and Air National Guard Headquarters.
The facility will also include secure information technology, an administrative suite, a Joint Operations Center, an assembly hall, a museum, storage facility, educational and other support facility spaces.
The energy efficient building will be built with sustainable and high performance design.
“I am happy to report that this is a VING second lead project which is a green building,” said Col. Michael A. McDonald, who works for the U.S. Property & Fiscal Office for the Virgin Islands.
The headquarters is presently renting the O’Neale Building in La Grande Princesse, Christiansted, and only houses a fraction of the JFHQ personnel.
Maj. Gen. Renaldo Rivera, VING’s Adjutant General, seemed thrilled that his staff would finally be moving to permanent digs. “When we finish this building, we’ll be on our own – no longer will be renting or asking for space,” Rivera said.
The headquarters facility is adjacent to VING’s 210th Regional Training Institute, which was also designed by Jacobs Engineering Group and is being built by Tip Top Construction.
Tip Top’s project manager Matt Davel said, “The weather always presents challenges, and the soil is difficult to manage, but we’ve really learned a lot in the process of building the RTI.”
After the hour-long ceremony, which was moved indoors because of rain, the official party went outside and hiked up the muddy hill to turn over the soil in a symbolic groundbreaking.