by Brooke Edwards Staags
TUSTIN – After roughly two decades of negotiation and planning, construction is underway on a new Tustin Army Reserve Center.
“These state-of-the-art facilities will ensure our brave men and women will be able to succeed with their training and be better equipped to defend their nation and improve their skills as soldiers,” said Belynda Lindsey, chief warrant officer for the 63rd Regional Support Command, during a groundbreaking ceremony last week.
The Army Reserve Center is now on 14.5 acres west of The District shopping center on Barranca Parkway. That 42,200-square-foot center was built in 1964 when the area was active as the Marine Corps Air Station. At that time, Lindsey pointed out, “the land was more open and the words ‘high speed’ were associated with aircraft rather than the Internet.”
The city and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have talked about relocating the center since the mid-1990s as the Marine base shut down and Tustin began developing the Tustin Legacy community. The center’s property is smack in the middle of a commercial zone, with valuable development existing or planned around it.
The city and federal agency finally reached a deal on a land swap in 2014. Tustin agreed to give the Army another 15 acres a mile from the current site, on the northwest corner of Red Hill and Warner avenues. Both parcels have an equal value, but the city agreed to reimburse the Army up to $170,000 for relocation expenses.
“We were excited to re-engage our military heritage by partnering with the military again,” said Matt West, who oversees Tustin Legacy development for the city.
The new reserve center is expected to open in 2017. It will accommodate more than 600 soldiers from seven units, Lindsey said. The center will feature a larger assembly area, more space for physical fitness, a weapons simulator and learning facilities. And the buildings will incorporate sustainable elements to save energy.
The new center also will provide mutual training support for the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy, which opened in 2007 on land adjacent to where the reserve center is being built.
“Simple things such as increased space will be beneficial to both groups, and we hope to be a resource for the Army Reserve Center once their project is complete and the center is operational,” said Lt. Jeff Hallock, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department.
While construction takes place, West said the city will make plans for how to use the land once the reserve center relocates. Options include expanding The District or building a stand-alone project at the site.