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Air Force spending nearly $27M to turn vacant Yokota apartments into dorms

Thousands of visitors crowd the flightline during the 2012 Japanese-American Friendship Festival at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Aug. 19, 2012. Yokota welcomed approximately 178,000 visitors for the festival from across Japan. (Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse/U.S. Air Force)

The Air Force expects to pay $26.8 million to turn a pair of vacant family housing towers into dormitories for 280 unaccompanied airmen at the home of U.S. Forces Japan in western Tokyo.

The renovations will transform 140 two- and three-bedroom apartments, built by the Japanese government decades ago, into two-bedroom dorms, 374th Airlift Wing spokeswoman Capt. Alicia Premo said in an email Thursday.

Yokota’s population of about 11,500 servicemembers, civilians and dependents increased last year with the arrival of five CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft from the 353rd Special Operations Group. Ten Ospreys will eventually be stationed at the base, adding about 450 personnel to its population.

Although the tower renovations aren’t due to start until the end of the year and will take several years to complete, Premo said airmen have already moved into some units, which are within walking distance of Yokota’s gymnasium, enlisted club, exchange and dining facilities.

The renovations will include installing locks for the separate bed spaces and improvements to heating and air conditioning, electrical and fire-suppression systems and roof repair, Premo said.

“The new tower living quarters will have a shared living room, bathroom, laundry room and kitchen as common space,” she said. “Airmen will have access to cook and do laundry in their apartments as well as watch TV in a common living area shared by one other person.”

Most of those living in the new newly renovated dorms will be senior airmen and staff sergeants, Premo said.

Some Yokota airmen live off-base, although there are dormitories to accommodate 1,000 unaccompanied servicemembers, according to installation management flight chief Heyward Singleton.

Base residents have questioned the need for people to live outside the gate when nine out of the 21 apartment towers on Yokota appear empty.

“What people see as empty is not necessarily empty,” Singleton said.

Five towers are “contingency quarters” that can be occupied during exercises or emergencies, one is a temporary lodging facility operated by Yokota’s on-base hotel — the Kanto Lodge — and another is being fitted out as additional temporary lodging, he said.

The tower apartments are larger than most Japanese homes but smaller than what Americans might be used to, Singleton said.

They are, however, solidly built. Their concrete superstructure is so thick residents can’t pick up cellphone signals in the center of the buildings, he said.

“These homes are designed to survive natural disasters,” he added.


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