In what was billed as a "defining moment" for Silicon Valley on Friday, leaders from NASA Ames, local colleges and U.S. Congress trumpeted plans for a sustainable community at Moffett Field that will include new homes, businesses and a huge new university representing both Foothill-De Anza and UC Santa Cruz.
The Moffett Field ceremony was full of proclamations about the $1 billion project's importance in creating the technology and workforce necessary for a green economy.
"With this project we are saying we are ready for a new century," said Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, who was joined by fellow congressional members Mike Honda and Zoe Lofgren.
"This is not just going to move the U.S. forward, but the whole world forward," said Pete Worden, NASA Ames center director. "It will be a greener world when we've finished what we've started here."
Rough conceptual plans include a futuristic research park with wind turbines, solar panels, high-rise buildings with green roofs and natural ventilation, shared plug-in hybrids and a light rail extension that loops around the 75-acre site, which is bordered by the Moffett historic district, Wescoat military housing, Highway 101 and the airfield.
The finished research park will total three million square feet of space, divided among several universities, private companies, retailers and 1,800 homes, said Foothill-De Anza trustee Bruce Swenson. The plan looks like a self-contained city, complete with a small Santana Row-style mixed use housing and retail development.
The "village" will serve as a model to test renewable-energy and resource-conservation systems, officials said.
"Our vision is to seed innovation, entrepreneurship and sustainability," said UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal in a press release. "We aim to establish world-class programs and facilities dedicated to preparing the workforce of the future" with "research at the forefront of science and technology."
Collaborators hope construction will begin by 2013 with occupancy by 2015, but that timeline will depend on financial conditions, potential industry partnerships and compliance with environmental law.
Foothill-De Anza and UC Santa Cruz have created University Associates LLC, a nonprofit company formed to lead the development effort. Santa Clara University and Carnegie Melon University are expected to sign onto the LLC soon.
While a developer has yet to come forward, NASA planners and university officials are very optimistic. They say that such a project, with its prime location near Highway 101, would make developers a fortune. And because it is on federally owned land, the development will not be subject to the numerous hearings and permits that can hold up a development in a city jurisdiction.
Foothill-De Anza Chancellor Martha Kanter said the facilities would be state of the art, but also provide "affordable education" for "underserved" engineering and science students who live east of Highway 101 on the Peninsula.
"It opens up exciting possibilities for preparing our students to enter Silicon Valley's clean-tech and green-tech workforce or pursue advanced study in science, technology, engineering and emerging career fields," Kanter said.
NASA Ames also hopes to gain something from all this.
"NASA employees aren't getting any younger," Worden said. "We've got to get some young people in here."