Officials unveil plans for billion-dollar research hub

Foothill-De Anza, UC Santa Cruz collaborate with NASA Ames on green-tech mecca

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."


Like this comment
Posted by Kay
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 16, 2009 at 5:49 pm

It is wonderful to read about this development, which could not come at a better time.

Like this comment
Posted by Mike Laursen
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 16, 2009 at 9:09 pm

So, do all the numerous hearings and permits that we subject developers to in Mountain View have an important purpose or do they just slow down development? If it's the former, shouldn't this development go through the same reviews? If it's the latter, shouldn't we get rid of all these hearings and permits we require inside Mountain View city limits?

Like this comment
Posted by eric
a resident of another community
on Mar 17, 2009 at 10:39 am

Mike, this project is on Federal land, so Mtn View gets little say, and the MV process doesnt apply. If you'll re-read the article, you'll see that construction is a long way off, so clearly there are plenty of regulatory hurdles to clear on this, though the process will look a lot different than a city entitlement project.

Like this comment
Posted by Fred Duperrault
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 17, 2009 at 11:51 am

The NASA Ames $1B, 75 acre " research park 'village'" that Congresswoman Anna Eshoo assures will get us "...ready for the new century," seems exciting and visionary.

However, it also seems to me that locating the project on the shores of south San Francisco Bay might not be wise. Have NASA Ames and the developers considered some predictions that shorelines will drastically recede during this century because of global warming?

A recent front page photo in the S.J. Mercury News showed how much of Moffett Field will probably be inundated by the rise of the Pacific Ocean, come global warming.

Am I up to my neck in gloomy predictions, or will NASA Ames' "defining moment" end up high and dry?

Like this comment
Posted by Ralph Otte
a resident of another community
on Mar 18, 2009 at 4:08 pm

Fred and Mike and Eric and others, you are all right in stressing that this plan for a "Great New Hub" is on federal land and not subject to permits from cities. But permits a-plenty will be needed!

As a member of Moffett's RAB (Restoration Advisory Board), along with fellow board members we are trying to save Hangar One for long-term future use (while restoring other sections of the base). Since global warming will continue at a slow pace for a century or more even if every emission were to be stopped tonight, we count on the hangar and housing and all of the new Hub to be safe and dry throughout our lifetimes.

As for permits, well, both NASA and Navy have experts who protect the public interest. We work with them all the time and they are careful while being also cooperative. This new Hub may take time to develop, but will continue Moffett's tradition of service to our communities.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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