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Lt. governor tours Beaver Meadows Apartments, assesses impact of Fort Drum cuts

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Lt. Gov. Robert J. Duffy remained optimistic about Watertown’s housing market in the face of last week’s announced 1,500-soldier reduction at Fort Drum during a tour Monday of the Beaver Meadows Apartments on outer Arsenal Street near the Towne Center plaza.

Mr. Duffy said while he wouldn’t call the inactivation of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team good news, the cuts were not as bad as they could have been and as troop levels stabilize, there will be less fluctuation in the housing market.

The reduction is scheduled to take place until fiscal year 2017 as part of the Army’s plan to reduce its soldier total from about 570,000 to nearly 490,000. With 19,024 soldiers on the post, according to the installation’s 2012 economic impact statement, a loss of 1,500 represents a reduction of about 8 percent.

The Beaver Meadows project was proposed by COR Development Co., Fayetteville, in 2011 as a way to help improve an identified shortage of 1,035 rental housing units in the area.

Though developers have begun to look more carefully at the area’s housing market in the wake of the announcement about the reduction, Carl A. McLaughlin, executive director of the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization, believes the cuts won’t have as big an impact as some have predicted.

Mr. McLaughlin said last week that though Fort Drum will have a reduction in overall numbers, the area will have a large contingent of soldiers when large-scale military operations end in Afghanistan in late 2014 and will still have thousands of more soldiers at the end of the reduction period than when military operations started to ramp up in 2003.

COR President Steven F. Aiello was on hand during Mr. Duffy’s tour and said 40 percent of the units are slated to go to military personnel and their families.

When completed, the Beaver Meadows Apartments will comprise 296 units. The project broke ground in December 2011. The first families moved into the complex in June, when a 40-unit four-story building opened. Three additional buildings at the site are set to open in August, October and November.

COR Development is also working to develop the former Mercy Hospital property in the city of Watertown into a mixed-use complex combining residential, retail and business development.

Mr. Aiello said the Mercy project would be slightly smaller in scale than the Beaver Meadows project, with approximately 200 units located above ground-floor stores and restaurants.

Soldiers and other residents are starting to look at moving into downtown urban settings as an attractive option, according to Mr. Aiello.

Mr. Duffy said he has been working with military and civilian officials in Watertown and Washington to make sure cuts to the base are not larger than what has been announced.

He said housing development had a major impact on efforts to keep soldiers on Fort Drum and praised local officials’ efforts to meet the housing demand. He also praised the Watertown community for its welcoming spirit.

“Watertown embraces our men and women in uniform,” Mr. Duffy said. “The people here treat them like family.”

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