A 1950s-era home that had weathered Arizona’s extreme heat and monsoons for decades was no match for a 72,000 pound excavator being operated by Col. James Blanchard, 355th Fighter Wing commander, Sept. 19. It was a day when the last of 12 homes scheduled for demolition at Soaring Heights came tumbling down.
Soaring Heights leaders and staff, members of the D-M Housing Management Office, and others watched the commander make quick work of cinderblock walls, wood beams and other materials that had comprised a home that housed military families for a generation.
“The day was a total success,” said Jim Switzer, Soaring Heights project director. “We really wanted Colonel Blanchard to be a part of this milestone for us. When Soaring Heights first began operations here, virtually all of the existing homes on base were not new. Since that time, all of our new homes have been built and we are removing some of our older homes from our inventory.”
While most of the older homes at Soaring Heights will eventually be replaced, the 12 homes that were removed were moved far ahead in the construction schedule, as the land on which they sit will be turned over to the Air Force. Meanwhile, the remaining 1950s Capehart-style homes in the Soaring Heights inventory are not scheduled for demolition in the next few years.
“This was a big day for us to have our Air Force partner take part,” said Jacquelin “Kiki” Villanueva, Soaring Heights assistant asset manager. “Colonel Blanchard seemed like a real pro at the controls of the excavator. In only a few seconds he reduced walls to rubble.”
Villanueva is the manager in charge of making sure the demolition of the homes was completed on time and under budget.
“So far, the demolition is going great,” Villanueva added. “We started work earlier this month doing any necessary abatement and preparation of the site. With a couple of short weeks, the homes are now gone.”
Heading up operations of the site was Chris Keeble, a project manager with Lend Lease’s Multi-Site Group, who was impressed by Soaring Heights residents who lived directly across from the site.
“Whenever there are operations like this, there can be inconveniences such as short interruptions in traffic on the street,” Keeble said. “But I can’t say enough about how much we appreciate the residents’ patience and caution around the job site. Residents understood our need for the safety precautions, especially around the site and our workers.”
As Colonel Blanchard rested the bucket of the excavator on the ground, his temporary construction work at the site was done. The homes were gone and the site was being cleared. No safety incidents or accidents occurred and the cleared land is closer to being turned over to the Air Force.