Fort Hood Sentinel
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THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2014  02:23:37 PM

Ground broken for long-awaited Exchange Mall

Email   Print   Share By Erin Rogers, Sentinel Staff
June 25, 2013 | News
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Steve Medlin, vice president of SMC Builders Inc.; Mike Smietana, vice president of Real Estate Directorate Exchange, Headquarters Dallas; Col. Matt Elledge, Fort Hood Garrison commander; Command Sgt. Maj. Douglas Gault, Fort Hood Garrison command sergeant major; Paula Gunderson, Fort Hood Exchange general manager; and Russ Echols, architect/project manager at the Exchange, break ground on the new Exchange Mall on Clear Creek Road Wednesday. The mall will be completed in February 2015, and the grand opening will be in June of the same year. The new mall is going to be significantly larger than the existing facility. Erin Rogers, Sentinel Staff
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The artist’s rendition of the main store entrance of the new Exchange Mall at Fort Hood, set to be completed in February of 2015 and opening in June of the same year. Courtesy photo
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Col. Matt Elledge, Fort Hood Garrison commander, acts as the keynote speaker for the groundbreaking ceremony of the new Exchange Mall on Clear Creek Road Wednesday. Erin Rogers, Sentinel Staff
Fort Hood broke ground on the new Exchange Mall Wednesday at the southeast corner of Clear Creek Road and Tank Destroyer Boulevard.

After planning for nearly 10 years, turning dirt on the $47,000,000 project is the ultimate step for turning blue prints, spreadsheets and meetings into reality for the Exchange Mall.

“We’re really excited about this,” said Paula Gunderson, Fort Hood Exchange general manager, “because it will be a better and easier shopping experience for our customers.”

Col. Matt Elledge, Fort Hood Garrison Commander and keynote speaker for the event, said he was extremely honored and excited to be a part of the groundbreaking and watch the mall being built from the ground up.

“You are now standing on what will be the Fort Hood mall of tomorrow,” Elledge said at the ceremony.

The current Exchange, known as the Clear Creek Exchange, has reached its life expectancy, and the time for a new and better Exchange is well past due, according to Alan Erwin, master planner for Fort Hood Department of Public Works.

“The existing facility is 32-years-old,” Erwin said. “It was built in 1976 and expanded in 1996, but it can’t be expanded anymore due to geographical restrictions. That’s a big part in the need for this new facility – the existing one can’t be expanded anymore so we can’t make progress on it.”

“We’re supporting a close to 400,000 population. Fort Hood is a big community, and still growing,” said John Burrow, chief of Real Property Master Planning Division, DPW, echoing Erwin’s thoughts. “Having the two PXs separates the installation into east and west sides; this new Exchange will have what customers need all in one spot, to prevent needing to go from one side of post to the other.”

Elledge also spoke of how the new “one-stop-shop” will be a welcomed convenience.

“Soldiers and Families will no longer need to travel to different locations around Fort Hood to find what they’re looking for,” Elledge said. “They’ll only have to visit one location to find it all.”

The new LEED-Certified Exchange will be more than 265,000 square feet, significantly larger than either existing PX on Fort Hood. Parking will also be improved from the current 1,000 parking spaces to 1,117. There will even be a 20,000-square foot garden shop housed at the new Exchange. The improvements are everywhere, in every aspect with the new mall, Gunderson said.

“We’re moving sporting goods to the new Exchange, as well,” Gunderson said. “It will have everything from a nine-food-concept food court to the nail salon, beauty and barber shop, pharmacy, optical and vision center, in-store bank and dental clinic, to name a few.

“What’s really cool is it will have all these services in one spot,” Gunderson said. “You can go shopping, you can have your teeth done and your eyes checked, you can have your hair done, and there will be a nail salon too, and then leisurely do your shopping before going to eat at one of our nine food concepts, or sit and relax at the coffee shop.”

The main store alone will be roughly 152,000-square feet, just for shopping and entertainment.

“This will bring a new synergy of shopping to one particular area so customers don’t have to travel several miles from one facility to the other facility; it brings a better shopping experience,” Gunderson said.

“Our mission is to provide quality merchandise and services at competitively low prices,” Gunderson said. “The second part of that mission is to contribute to MWR (Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation) quality-of-life programs. This new Exchange helps us meet our mission, it helps gives the customers a better shopping experience so they will want to make us their destination point; in turn, the dividends go back to our MWR and their Soldier and Family quality-of-life programs.”

She explained that approximately 67 percent of the AAFES earnings go to MWR quality-of-life programs, while another 33 percent goes to capital improvements, such as the new mall.

“The more customers shop, the more we can build things like this. ‘You save – we give back.’ That’s our motto. They save by shopping with us and saving 23 percent market basket to market basket and sales tax, and we give back to MWR.”

The estimated completion for the new Exchange is February of 2015, with the grand opening slated for June of that year.

Mike Smietana, vice president of Real Estate Directorate Exchange Dallas and guest speaker Wednesday, said Fort Hood was the perfect place for the mall because of the obvious and unavoidable sense of togetherness and partnership between the military community and AAFES at the Great Place.

“We are ecstatic about this groundbreaking. It’s the ultimate reality after all this planning,” Gunderson said. “It’s been a long time coming. Sticking the shovel in the ground is the concrete step. It’s all about the customers; it’s coming for them now with the groundbreaking, it’s real – it’s always been about the military and their Families.”

“This really impacts the quality-of-life for Soldiers and their Family members, and why Fort Hood is the Great Place,” Burrow said, referring to the new Exchange and its groundbreaking being a critical piece of improving life at Fort Hood and looking into the future for upcoming projects.

“This mall contributes to Fort Hood being the Great Place,” Gunderson echoed. “It just makes our Great Place even greater.”
 
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