Flight Plan: Buckley builds master plan for future of base in Aurora


AURORA | Buckley Air Force base is poised and ready for more action – just as soon as the U.S. Department of Defense needs its spare 7 million square feet of space.

The base is a few months away from finishing its revamped Master Plan, a planning document that details Buckley’s potential growth for the next 20 years.

Master Sgt. Ricky Kissell, a crew chief for the 140th Wing of the Colorado Air National Gaurd, gives his F-16 a bath last year  at Buckley Air Force Base.  Space and military projects in Aurora and Colorado are seen as a potential economic boon to the region and the state.  (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)
Master Sgt. Ricky Kissell, a crew chief for the 140th Wing of the Colorado Air National Gaurd, gives his F-16 a bath last year at Buckley Air Force Base. Space and military projects in Aurora and Colorado are seen as a potential economic boon to the region and the state. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

“We developed what could happen here,” said Mary Jane Brady, community planner for the 460th Civil Engineer Squadron. “How do we best use this asset long-term? What’s the maximum or a high possibility of what we could do here?”

Having the document completed will allow Buckley to be ready to expand. For example, base officials now know exactly how much extra space they have – 7 million square feet, about twice as many as are currently in use.

This is handy because when the U.S. Department of Defense is looking to relocate a mission, they want to know what bases can handle the extra load, said Lt. Col. Madison Morris, commander of the 460th Civil Engineer Squadron.

“As they’re making those decisions, we can look at this plan and say, ‘Look, we’ve already studied this. You need a million square feet? We’ve got a million square feet of admin space,’” Morris said. “‘Here’s where we could put it on the base,’ which I think would be attractive to these big missions that are looking to put missions someplace.”

And with missions comes economic impact.

“That’s especially important for the people of Aurora,” said Maj. Sgt. Jill LaVoie, a base spokeswoman. “Obviously if we have the capacity to hold a new mission, that brings a new mission here which potentially brings new jobs to Aurora, brings more people and income into your community.”



The base is divided up into four different “districts” in the planning document; West End, Aspen, North Corner and Aviation Ridge districts. The plan lists possible ways each section could be developed in the

“Ideally, what we would end up with from this whole process is a way to measure, compare, predict and make investment decisions with this information,” Brady said.

For example, West End District currently includes housing units, a recently installed youth center and childcare center, a department store, and more. The plan outlines it as a potential area to develop more of a town center feeling – it could fit in a community park, an addition to the existing gymnasium, a community and education center and more. None of these buildings are funded, but they could be built, Brady said.

The document also outlines a transportation plan that examines how pedestrian pathways, roads and parking spaces will interact and grow.

While each of the four areas has room for mission growth should the need and funding arise, the Aviation Ridge District in particular has a lot of potential, Brady said. The area could potentially house missions for up to two new airfield missions and possibly four new squadrons, each with an average of 200 to 300 people.

“When you have an airfield, that’s just a tremendous asset,” Brady said. “The Air Force isn’t going out and building lots of new airfields, because it’s so expensive. So you want to make sure you’re maximizing the use of the asset.”

The planning focuses throughout on sustainability, Brady said. The military is required to build new buildings to meet LEED standards, although they don’t have to go through the certification process.

“It just makes smart sense to build green to save taxpayers’ money,” LaVoie said.

While the full build-out of Buckley’s current space potential could triple the square footage being used now, Brady cautioned that the corresponding personnel hike could vary in range.

“That doesn’t necessarily translate two more Buckley’s in terms of population,” she said. “It all depends on the mission and what their space requirements are.”

Some missions, for example, may take up a good deal of square feet but can be handled by just a few people.



Although as a federal military base, Buckley wasn’t required to seek the approval of local and state agencies in their planning, Brady said residents, government officials and non governmental agencies from the area were given opportunities to weigh in on the base’s vision.

“The process is really intended to be collaborative,” she said. “You can never do planning in a vacuum.”

Morris said that people from all sectors on the base were also included in the planning process, which began about 15 months ago.

“This isn’t something that the… host unit of the base is forcing down everybody’s throats,” Morris said. “This is something that everybody built together.”

Brady said funding was only originally available to pay for a consultant to complete the plans for the West End and Aspen districts. The base’s airfield operators, however, wanted the Aviation Ridge District to be accounted for.

“They thought it was important enough to do this planning that they helped pay for it,” Brady said.

The planning consultants – from a company called The Urban Collaborative – recommended that the squadron complete the planning in-house, which they did, using the experience they gained from helping with the other districts, Brady said.

Brady said doing a portion of the planning themselves did save some money, but she didn’t know how much. Buckley did not provide the contract amount paid to The Urban Collaborative.

Once the plan is finalized, Buckley will become the first U.S. Air Force Base to have their entire Master Plan developed according to new planning standards set forward by the U.S. Department of Defense in 2012, Morris said.



Since the Master Plan doesn’t account for a practical way to actually build, Buckley is pressing forward to create Area Development Execution Plans. These outline what potential costs of individual projects could be and what possible shifting around would need to happen to existing locations on-base.

Brady said the new plans were sent out near the end of February or beginning of March.

A closer look

Buckley Air Force base is a major economic driver in Aurora. From the civilian jobs the base provides to the groceries its personnel buy, Buckley’s economic impact on Aurora was estimated to be about $1.03 billion in 2012, according to Dick Hinson, senior vice president of the Aurora Economic Development Council.

Hinson said Buckley’s potential to expand is directly linked to the city’s economic well-being.

“The more mission you have on Buckley, the more important it becomes and the less likely it would be (to be shut down),” Hinson said. “I can’t say enough about what a major asset Buckley is to our community. … We want it to grow. We will do whatever we can to assist the expansion.”

At Buckley Air Force base…

There are about 8,300 military positions, 2,400 civilian positions and 3,500 contractor positions.

The annual dollar value of jobs created is about $272 million

On-base construction projects were valued at about $17.5 million

Service contracts (from companies like Raytheon and Boeing) were valued at about $27 million.

Annual payroll was about $664 million

Local purchases were estimated to be about $45.4 million

Figures provided by Buckley Air Force base and the Aurora Economic Development Council