A 5.6 earthquake was only the second thing to shake City Hall on Tuesday night, after a NASA Ames official announced the agency would be taking bids next year on a massive research park at Moffett Field that will provide homes and office space for private companies, NASA and several colleges.
Michael Marlaire, NASA Ames director of partnerships, said the research park would become "a goldmine for the informal meeting" -- in other words, the casual exchange of ideas -- as college students worked and lived next to employees from NASA and companies like Google.
The first phase of the project could include at least 1,000 units of rental housing on one million square feet, and 200,000 square feet of office space east of the main gate at Moffett along the northern edge of Highway 101. NASA Ames has a list of 800 developers it is reaching out to later this year, and bids are due in March 2008.
A conceptual plan was created in 1998 after several discussions with Sunnyvale and Mountain View. Eventually the project will take up four to five million square feet, with two million square feet as housing. When all is said and done, NASA Ames will add up to 5,000 people at Moffett.
The University of California has expressed serious interest in developing a major Silicon Valley campus at the site, and major announcement are due in the next few months regarding those plans, Marlaire said. The Foothill-De Anza Community College District could also have a presence in the new park.
Marlaire also gave an update on Google's one million square foot campus, slated for the northwest corner of Moffett Field. Google and NASA could finalize an agreement any time, but it's been left up to Google to figure out when the time is right given its business strategy.
Google "has made it clear that it wants 100 units of housing," Marlaire said, in addition to the 1,000 units planned on 23 acres north of Highway 101 just east of Wescoat military housing. But those 100 Google homes are just a "gleam in their eye" at this point, he added.
"The interest is large in building rental housing there," Marlaire said, and includes requests from many organizations.
Research park employees will be given first dibs on the housing, followed by non-NASA federal employees. Local school teachers will be given third priority, he said, and fourth in line is the general public. The units would be as small as 600 square feet, with larger town homes at about 1,200 square feet.
Several colleges already have their foot in the door for space at Moffett Field, Marlaire said. In order to qualify, both schools and businesses must in some way help NASA's larger mission of space exploration, and "we've sent a lot of people packing" who didn't, he said. Private businesses already at NASA Ames include Bloom Energy, an alternative energy company.
To enter the new world at Moffett, organizations are creating limited liability companies. Google, for example, has created Planetary Ventures LLC and universities have created them as well, such as the Carnegie Melon LLC.
Locating in the research park may be relatively costly, Marlaire said, because NASA Ames doesn't enjoy the "economies of scale" that cities do with fire and police services. Being on federal land, NASA has to pay for its own infrastructure. The agency already has met with the city to make use of its recycled water program.
Pushing forward an agenda of privatization in space exploration, NASA's direction under President George W. Bush has been to create "new economies in space," Marlaire said. People like Sergey Brin of Google aren't putting up $30 million of their own money to bring a rover to the moon to fulfill childhood dreams -- "They believe they are going to make a lot of money," Marlaire said.