The first category 5 hurricane to make landfall on the contiguous United States in more than 25 years, Hurricane Michael caused historically significant damage to the Florida panhandle. The $25.5 billion in estimated damages included Panama City’s Tyndall Air Force Base, which had stood since the 1940s. More than 60% of the base suffered damages, including the lodging facilities. Two years later, efforts to rebuild multiple zones of the base are in full swing, despite the COVID-19 pandemic and more recent storms.
Rebuilding the base is a unique opportunity, according to Jeffrey Pitchford, CDM Smith vice president and architect.
“Military bases are organic in the way they build themselves by adding or renovating buildings over time. It’s rare we get the opportunity to build a brand-new base,” said Pitchford. “We haven’t seen this level of base construction at one time since most of these bases were originally built years ago.”
The reconstruction of Tyndall has been divided into 12 zones, being designed and constructed by multiple firms and partners. CDM Smith was selected to rebuild zone 10, which includes a large lodging facility. Unlike the average hotel—hosting approximately 80 rooms—the new facility will boast a mix of 360 standard rooms and suites in five stories and two towers, as well as a restaurant, conference rooms, a fitness center and a new mechanical building.
The Rebuilding Challenge
The New Facility
The facility functions as not only a hotel for visiting families and servicemen and women, but also for pilots visiting the base to train on F35 jets and senior non-commissioned officers attending professional military training.
“The hotel is huge, so it was a challenge to break up the mass of the building, so it didn’t feel so big and create a better scale and relationship to the other buildings on the campus,” explained CDM Smith architect Charlotte Throop.
Both standard rooms and suites are oriented for a view, facing the Gulf of Mexico on one side and St. Andrews Bay on the other. An intermodal path winds through the entire campus to create a walkable environment.
The $200 million project meets Miami-Dade building codes—which account for stormwater management, high winds and corrosion control—and takes environmental impacts into account, addressing sea turtle lighting ordinances. Since hatching sea turtles are guided to the water by the light of the moon, the facility’s glass and lighting design limit the artificial light shining through windows that could potentially confuse hatchlings.
Construction is slated to begin during summer 2021 and the facility should be complete by 2024.