Real estate plays important role in civil works and military projects

Published Aug. 28, 2013
Hansler Bealyer (right), chief of the Real Estate Acquisition Branch, accompanies engineers Tony Smith (center) and Tim Gysan (left) on a River Acres site visit, to ensure real estate interests are appropriately addressed.

Hansler Bealyer (right), chief of the Real Estate Acquisition Branch, accompanies engineers Tony Smith (center) and Tim Gysan (left) on a River Acres site visit, to ensure real estate interests are appropriately addressed.

More than a decade after leaving Jacksonville District as a realty specialist to assume an 18-month tour with the Installation Management Agency, Europe, Audrey Ormerod has come full circle, returning to the district as the Real Estate Division chief.

After working with various Army commands for more than 30 years, Ormerod is excited to return to Jacksonville to oversee its real estate mission.

The Real Estate Division is responsible for ensuring the federal government has sufficient real estate interests necessary to support the construction, operations and maintenance of Corps civil works and military projects. The division plays a huge role in the process that leads to the completion of a civil works and military projects.

During the civil works reconnaissance study stage, a real estate appendix is prepared as part of the study to determine if there is sufficient federal interest to move into the feasibility phase of a civil works project. In the feasibility study phase, a comprehensive and detailed real estate appendix is prepared as part of the feasibility report, which is submitted to Corps headquarters for a determination on project authorization and funding. There are numerous factors that play a role in whether a project will be approved and constructed. The identification of real estate interests and costs are major components in that decision-making process.

Ormerod said that working with real estate is unique. “All the work we do is on or affects someone’s real estate or an interest in their real estate. Real estate is all land and structures firmly attached, such as buildings, structures, piers, wharves and linear structures; or integrated into the land such as underground utilities. Real estate is thought of as a group of rights, like a bundle of sticks, which can be divided. Beneath it all is the land,” she explained.

Hansler Bealyer, chief of the Real Estate Acquisition Branch, agrees with Ormerod in that real estate is a valuable function that enables the district to operate successfully. His branch works closely with both Programs and Project Management and Planning and Policy Divisions in the development and implementation of reports and construction efforts.

“It’s one of those key elements of a project, for which its many complexities are often overlooked. Each parcel of land can have various components of ownership, which can make acquisition go from a simple process taking a day or two on one hand, to a very complicated legal process taking a few months and in some cases, years,” said Bealyer.

Bealyer says the district has numerous missions to provide various services to the nation, both here in the U.S. and abroad. One of the components of mission accomplishment is ensuring that real estate is available to support those missions. Absent the real estate component, successful mission accomplishment is not possible.

Mark Bennett, chief of the Management Disposal Branch, explained that no two real estate actions are alike. In real estate, it’s often said the three most important considerations are “location, location, location.”  In the case of real estate that supports district projects, location makes each action different. In addition to civil works support, his branch executes the Department of Defense Military Recruiting Program and supports military projects in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

With real estate potentially affecting an individual’s or organization’s real estate or interest in that real estate, Ormerod and her staff said that it’s important for project delivery teams to include a real estate representative.

“The real estate mission begins in a project’s planning and resourcing stages, and spans acquisition, construction, management and disposal,” Ormerod said. “Everything we do is on somebody’s land. Whether we’re building docks or bridges, real estate is a part of it.”

“It is our responsibility to ensure all interests of real estate are appropriately addressed,” said Bennett.  “One of the biggest problems people get into is trying to appropriate something they have no right to. We make sure our [government] rights aren’t encroached upon, so that our engineering plans work as designed. We make sure interests aren’t compromised, that the chain of title is intact and that appropriate real estate interests apply to what the district is executing.”

Real Estate Division is involved with several key civil works projects, including the Kissimmee River Restoration Project (KRR) and the Herbert Hoover Dike Rehabilitation Project. The KRR is one of the federal government’s largest environmental projects and has been recognized for its environmental success.

“Somebody has to get the land. We [real estate] have a role. None of our projects can move forward until we have the land,” Ormerod said.