SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – More than 8,700 acres (3,500 hectares) that once formed part of a busy U.S. naval station in eastern Puerto Rico have been turned over to the government of the U.S. territory, the island's governor said Tuesday.
The transfer comes nine years after U.S. officials closed the Roosevelt Roads naval station, saying it was no longer needed after the military stopped using the nearby island of Vieques as a bombing range.
Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said he plans to meet with officials in the eastern towns of Ceiba and Naguabo, where the property is located, to decide how to develop it. The towns were economically devastated by the closure of the station, which was commissioned in 1943 and once employed about 6,300 people.
Garcia said the government is considering a 20-year economic plan requiring a $2.5 billion investment to renovate the land and generate some 24,700 jobs. Officials previously considered building a cruise ship port, hotels and a casino on adjoining property that also formed part of the naval station.
The U.S. previously turned over about 1,370 acres (554 hectares) in January 2012 and an additional 3,400 acres (1,376 hectares) have been designated for conservation.