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NEWS | Dec. 12, 2008

Big plans in store for former shipping depot

By Mike Joseph 37th Training Wing Public Affairs

What do you do with a building that's large enough to cover a city block, stretches a quarter mile and encompasses nearly 460,000 square feet? You put it to good use solving the Base Realignment and Closure space challenges at Lackland.

That's exactly what the Air Force is doing with Bldg. 171 at Port San Antonio.

The building will become home to 2,700 workers by August 2010 as a $65 million makeover begins taking place in 2009. The Air Force will consolidate 11 agencies into the building in accordance with 2005 BRAC rulings.

Approximately half of the new military and civilian personnel will be moving to San Antonio from Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia and other states. The rest of the work force will transfer from area offices, including some from Brooks City-Base.

"It was the cheapest way to go and yet still have the ability to bring all these organizations to San Antonio per BRAC mandate," said George DeCoux, 37th Mission Support Group deputy commander. "It makes good sense; the mandate under BRAC was organizations must move out of leased facilities, saving the Air Force dollars in the long run."

Bldg. 171 is one of the largest buildings in San Antonio, and if it were vertical instead of horizontal, it would be one of the largest downtown high-rise office buildings. Only the Westin Center downtown is larger with more than 490,000 square feet.

Lackland is partnering with Air Education and Training Command, Air Force Real Property Agency and Port San Antonio in this multi-million dollar venture to accommodate all of these missions in San Antonio.

The structure was originally erected during World War II at Kelly Air Field, and served as a shipping depot for supplies to Europe for WWII. It later became a weapons logistics center. It is most remembered as the location Port San Antonio and the City of San Antonio used for housing Hurricane Katrina victims in 2005.

In order to get the facility, other Air Force property was traded for the building. Its location is adjacent to a three-building fenced compound already under 37th Training Wing oversight and will make it one large compound.

One benefit of using Bldg. 171 is that it will allow the blending of organizations as the Air Force continues its efficiencies. "There will be a real synergy among the organizations sharing space in this facility. It will be a one-stop shop for several Air Force Agencies to accomplish the mission," said Mr. DeCoux.

"So many things are happening at the same time in San Antonio," Mr. DeCoux said. "Several Air Force agencies are regionalizing while we're accomplishing Joint Basing and all of the construction associated with BRAC by September 2011. It could be the perfect storm but AETC and all three installations are balancing each of these perfectly to achieve mission success."