The new 912th Air Refueling Squadron is teaming up with the 336th Air Refueling Squadron to increase combat capability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Linda Welz)
The former March Air Force Base, located in an unincorporated area of western Riverside County, California, was realigned in 1996, when 2,075 acres became an Air Force Reserve Base and the remainder of the installation (4,533 acres) was closed as part of a nationwide Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).
A civilian Joint Powers Authority (JPA) was created to plan and implement final reuse of the base by leasing and/or eventually transferring parcels of land to private companies, organizations, or government agencies. The Joint Powers Commission (JPC), the governing body of the JPA, includes two representatives from each of the three cities bordering the former base (Riverside, Moreno Valley, and Perris), and two representatives from the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. Riverside County encompasses 7,200 square miles and is the second-largest county, by land mass, in the nation.
Today, excluding the Air Reserve Base, March provides a mix of housing, commercial and industrial development, a regional safety training center, and recreation at a popular golf course named for General Archie Old, who led three B-52s in the first non-stop jet flight around the world. The clubhouse at the General Old Golf Course was recently refurbished with an expanded pro shop and kitchen in the newly named Aviator Grille that features, for the first-time, a full-service bar.
Businesses at March include the main distribution center for Tesco, an enormous green-minded British corporation which operates about 200 Fresh and Easy neighborhood grocery stores in the Western U.S. In 2007, they installed a $13 million solar roof on their five-building, 820,400-square-foot facility. The chain also uses hybrid refrigeration trucks which can be plugged in while they're at the center, minimizing CO2 emissions and noise. Managers at each Fresh and Easy store return all display and shipping materials to the distribution center, where they are recycled or re-used.
Another business at March is AMRO Fabricating Corp., which signed a lease in 2011 for a 314,925-square-foot shipping hub formerly occupied by German shipping company DHL, but vacant since 2008. The building was repainted in late 2011, covering DHL's signature bright yellow with white paint. AMRO, headquartered in South El Monte, is building aircraft components for Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.
In terms of housing, the Green Acres development is refurbished former officers' quarters built in 1930 and rented out to the public. Units range from 2-5 bedroom homes within a lush park-like setting. Air Force Village West is a modern retirement development of attractive homes, conveniently located near the General Old Golf Course.
Some 365 acres, as well as classroom buildings and dormitories associated with the former NCO Academy have morphed into the Ben Clark Training Center (BCTC). Hundreds of students take Moreno Valley College's public safety courses there, training for careers as law enforcement officers, dispatchers, paramedics, firefighters, probation or correctional officers, and juvenile correctional counselors.
The regional center involves a partnership between the college, Riverside County Sheriff's Office, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Riverside County Fire Department, California Highway Patrol and the Riverside County Probation Department. According the facility's website, students at BCTC are able to learn how various emergency service disciplines interface in order to provide quality emergency services in the real world.
Ground was broken in 2010 for the March LifeCare campus, an ambitious proposed medical complex. According to the project developer, the complex will cost $3.7 billion to build and could ultimately bring some 7,000 jobs to the former Air Force base.
As envisioned, the health care complex will include a 550-bed hospital, a senior continuum of care facility of over 700 beds, medical office buildings, retail, ambulatory care facilities, education, research and training facilities, plus a hotel, and a healing institute. The total size of these healthcare-related structures will be six million square feet.
Construction of March LifeCare will reportedly take nine years and could employ 12,000-plus workers. So far, demolition of several buildings, including the former base hospital, has taken place as a prelude to construction.