Posted on: 06-17-18
In 1972, when Dan Dean was 17 and his father was the new commandant of the Army Signal Center School at Fort Monmouth, he claimed the attic of the two-family house where his family would be living on the base.
“I painted the pipes and the trim all red, white and blue,” said Dean, 63, a retired federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission official now living in Maryland.
Last December, after Dean heard that the officers’ quarters on the decommissioned base were being redeveloped for sale as private homes, he took a nostalgia tour with an eye toward investing in a unit with his two sisters, who had also lived on the base. He was already transfixed by the visit to his old house 45 years later, when he climbed the attic stairs to have a look.
“And there they were,” he said of the painted pipes. “Still the same.“
And that pretty much sealed the deal.
Phase II of East Gate, which includes Dean’s house, goes on sale this weekend, when he’ll be back on base looking to make a deal. All 20 units of Phase I sold out after going on the market this spring, said Dave Schoener, a vice president for Coldwell Banker New Homes, the project’s broker. Buyers should begin moving into Phase I by September, Schoener said.
Dean is far from the only potential buyer who had lived or worked on the base.
“On April 28, when Phase I began selling, 300 people turned out and many of them were veterans,” Schoener said.
He said many were military or civilian personnel who had lived or worked on the base prior to its official closing on Sept. 15, 2011, after it was deemed non-essential by the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission. The base is now controlled by the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority, which developed a master plan calling for a broad range of uses: 1,585 housing units; 300,000 square feet of non-profit, government and educational space; 500,000 square feet of retail; and 2 million square feet of office, research and commercial space.
The East Gate project, named for the base’s eastern entrance on Oceanport Road, involves complete interior renovations of the officers’ quarters, featuring open floor-plans, modern kitchens and hard wood floors. Schoener said prices start at around $400,000, with the highest bid so far being $750,000 for a single-family house.
The base commander’s house, whose occupant held a general’s rank, is expected to fetch seven figures, Schoener said.
The century-old Army base was placed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places in 2014, so the red brick exterior of the houses is being refurbished but unaltered, Schoener said. RPM couldn’t even add window shutters, he said.
Fort Monmouth was established just prior to the U.S. entry into World War I in 1917, and hosted research and development of military communications and other technology, including a well-known training facility for homing pigeons, finally discontinued in 1957.
In a statement, Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority Director of Real Estate Dave Nuse credited RPM’s “expertise in integrating modern amenities into historic rehabilitation.“
“We look forward to welcoming the first new residents to the Fort Monmouth Historic District.”
Dean said he was an Army brat who was born at Fort Zama in Japan and lived on bases around the world, including three separate stays at Fort Monmouth, where his father, Col. Gernard D. Dean, had various assignments, and young Dan played baseball on the parade ground and delivered newspapers on his bike.
“If you’re a military brat, you grow up in a completely insulated society,“ said Dean, who is not a military veteran, but whose wife is a former Army sergeant. Every afternoon on base, Dean added, “when they started playing the music for lowering the flag, everybody stopped. Everyone put their hand over their heart when they lowered the flag. That’s something you would never see anywhere else.”