As Fort Meade has seen its population grow, it also has seen an increasing number of service members living further away from the installation gates.
Young service members in particular have found themselves priced out of housing nearby and now commute from as much as 30 minutes away, Army officials said.
The installation is now addressing that problem with the construction of Reece Crossings, a new garden-style apartment complex on base. It is the first-ever privately built apartment project designed specifically for junior enlisted service members. Officials broke ground on the complex during a ceremony Wednesday at Fort Meade.
Picerne Military Housing hopes to deliver the first set of apartments this year. There will be 416 two-bedroom units, all with full kitchens, laundry rooms and walk-in closets. There also will be a clubhouse with a gym, swimming pool, flat-screen televisions and business center.
Reece Crossings will rent for $1,296 per month, including all utilities, cable television, high-speed Internet, parking and renters' insurance.
According to the Department of Defense, the base area housing allowance for the Fort Meade area is $1,380 per month for a single junior enlisted service member. An enlisted service member looking to rent alone in any of the new apartments outside the base gates in Odenton would find themselves either shy of funds or with little left over.
"Soldiers were commenting that they had to live further and further away in order to live within their base area housing allowance and have the quality of housing they want," said Katherine Hammack, the assistant secretary of the Army in charge of installations, energy and the environment. "This is in response to a base need."
Reece Crossings will be open to any single service member with the E-1 to E-4 pay grade. Residents can have their choice of roommate.
Developer John Picerne said service members should easily be able to afford the apartments on the current base area housing allowance and even receive a rebate.
"That's a win-win for them, because it affords a little bit of disposable income," Picerne said.
Col. Edward Rothstein, the installation commander at Fort Meade, said there is an advantage to having young service members on base. They can more easily capture the spirit and community of the installation and there is an added benefit of fewer cars lining up at the base gates each morning.
Reece Crossing is located within walking distance to several key spots on Fort Meade, including the Defense Media Activity, parade field and Army headquarters.
Picerne said it will open its leasing office at Reece Crossings this week and expects to complete the clubhouse this year. Full delivery of the project is expected in 2016.