Four major real estate developers have expressed interest in developing a nearly three million-square-foot research park at NASA Ames, according to a consortium of local universities coordinating the project's development.
The consortium, University Associates, LLC — which so far is composed of UC Santa Cruz and the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, but with Santa Clara University and others slated to sign on — announced on Monday the interest of the following four applicants, each of which has extensive experience building large planned communities:
■ Lowe Enterprises in partnership with Essex Property Trust, Inc., Swinerton Builders and Skanska USA Building, Inc.
■ TMG Partners in partnership with The Related Companies
The proposed research park would take up 77 acres of the southwestern corner of Moffett Field. According to conceptual plans, a winning firm will be selected as master developer of the project, which will eventually include classrooms, housing, commercial and industrial space with buildings over 10 stories high, open space, and portions of walkable mixed-use areas with a "downtown" look.
The master developer would build much of the university buildings — also known as the research park's "Silicon Valley campus"— along with the "horizontal" infrastructure of the rest of the project, said William Berry, a UCSC director who is now president of University Associates.
"It's a good first step but we have a long way to go yet," Berry said. Once a final developer is picked, he said, detailed plans will be drafted and "long and interesting" negotiations will ensue with the developer over lease terms.
An Environmental Impact Study approved in 2002 allows a maximum of 2.9 million square feet, including 1,930 housing units, 600,000 square feet of academic space, 300,000 square feet of industrial space and 100,000 square feet of training and conference space.
In a recession, it would seem that such an expensive project could be a problem for cash-strapped universities to take on, but Berry doesn't think so.
"All of our partners believe student education is going to grow and the demand is going to grow," Berry said. "This is just laying the long-term groundwork for that."