It’s the end of an era for the Midway Park neighborhood aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. Residents who lived in the community only five years ago may find it hard to believe, but their old homes are all but gone. The few houses remaining are empty, awaiting the hands of change that tore down the walls next door.
Built in the early days of World War II, the old housing far outlasted the conflict that engulfed Europe and the Pacific. After serving as a home for numerous generations of Marines and their families, the neighborhood received a welcome face lift starting in 2009.
“Midway Park was a community of 531 small, 750 square-foot, cottage-style houses from 1942,” said Jeff Williams, senior development manager for Atlantic Marine Corps Communities, the organization tasked with updating the neighborhood’s housing. “This is our last legacy neighborhood that needed overall replacement.”
Midway Park received more than just replacement homes. It received modern, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified houses doubling the square footage of the previous homes with a smaller, more sustainable environmental footprint.
“What used to be houses with no garages or car ports now have a complete two-car garage as well as additional parking,” said Williams. “However, ninety percent of the sustainable items in these homes you’ll never see. They are part of the building, stuff that’s just not observable.”
From the meager 750 square-foot houses once dominating the area, Midway Park now consists of homes with 1,631 to 1,940 square-foot homes. The homes have thicker insulated walls with dual-pane windows, improved water efficiency, Energy Star appliances and other numerous features to reduce their electricity needs and environmental impact, said Williams.
The neighborhood also has extensive sidewalks and foot paths to improve the area’s connectivity. When possible, the original roadways were reused to further limit the overall impact on the environment, and many amenities, such as a post office, convenience store and bank, are within walking distance of the homes.
“All of these things in aggregate combine to create an ultra-efficient, low-energy home,” said Williams. “(AMCC) made a conscious decision to drive forward and do LEED homes. It was not a contract requirement for the Navy at the time. We’ve always felt you need to go the full mile on all the homes. It’s what we’ve done at Midway Park, but it wasn’t a requirement at the time.”
The whole operation was a neighborhood-wide metamorphosis residents watched progress house by house as they waited for their turn to move into a new home. All new arrivals to Midway Park will join current residents in the new homes as AMCC works to complete the overall upgrade by September 2013, said Williams.
AMCC took on the conversion efforts as part of a partnership between the Department of the Navy and Lend Lease, AMCC’s parent organization specializing in property and infrastructure development. At Midway Park, their goal was to complete a quick, controlled change to upgrade military housing without interrupting the community within.
“It’s kind of a logistical game,” said Williams. “You can’t knock down more than 500 houses today and have a plan to move more than 500 families.”
AMCC broke the conversion process into four stages. Currently in stage three of the development, the organization passed the point of no return for the old World War II-era homes that once defined the Midway Park map. At the same time, efforts to maintain a green, environmentally inviting community have left their mark.
“You don’t want to have a concrete jungle with nothing but houses, driveways and streets, but no yards,” said Williams. It is why Midway Park planned dog parks, playgrounds and walking paths. It even has the ability to process storm water through the natural percolation of runoff into the ground.
It’s the end of the line for 531 small homes that served military families since the 1940s, but it’s also the starting point for a new, energy efficient community just outside the main gate of MCB Camp Lejeune.