Hangar One could be boon for city | July 8, 2011 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |


Mountain View Voice

Opinion - July 8, 2011

Hangar One could be boon for city

The long saga of Hangar One has taken another twist, one that might ultimately place it under the purview of the city of Mountain View. And that may not be a bad thing.

The cavernous historic structure at Moffett Field is in the midst of being stripped of its contaminated siding, but the future of its skeletal remains is in doubt. Rather than going ahead and reskinning Hangar One, a recently released report by the NASA Office of the Inspector General recommends demolishing it entirely or giving it away.

The cost of restoring the dirigible hangar has passed from the United States Navy to NASA, and in a time of tight budgets, NASA officials are questioning the wisdom of spending almost $33 million to restore a building that has "no prospects for re-use for the foreseeable future and would require substantial additional investment to make it habitable."

But rather than sounding the death knell for the iconic structure, it could signal a new beginning with Hangar One, putting it in the hands of a community that is highly motivated to save it.

The 211-foot-tall Hangar One, with a footprint equal to 10 football fields, could bring thousands of visitors to the city and new revenue. It could be used as a convention hall or a major air and space museum, as "Smithsonian West" proponents suggest.

Coming up with almost $33 million is a tall order, but not necessarily impossible, even for a city of Mountain View's size. Remember that only two years ago, city officials were poised to invest $30 million on a long-sought-after hotel and convention center near Google in the Shoreline area. With the acquisition of Hangar One, the city could have a truly unique convention hall, certainly the only one in the world with such breathtakingly massive 1930s streamline moderne-style. Adding Hangar One to the special Shoreline tax district could help leverage the bond money to restore it. Just like Shoreline Amphitheatre, revenues from Hangar One uses could help fund city services, which have been cut back significantly in recent years.

City ownership could be the hangar's saving grace because the city could manage Hangar One free of federal constraints that make its re-use difficult. Federal laws say NASA must charge market rate rents and cannot credit tenant improvements toward future lease payments. The city can and has enticed tenants to lease city property by subsidizing tenants improvements to city buildings, such as the 1887 replica train depot.

It should be mentioned that the move could become something larger than Hangar One. In making the land under Hangar One a contiguous piece of the city, it may also be the right time for Mountain View to take on the largely vacant southwestern corner of Moffett Field, as city officials have discussed for years. The NASA Research Park planned for this 75-acre area is on hold because of the possibility of holding World Expo 2020 at Moffett.

The NRP plan has all the earmarks of a real community: the future home of a University of California campus, private research and development space, hundreds of homes, restaurants and shops. It is the sort of place that a city — not a space agency — would have expertise in governing and servicing. And it is appropriate that the affairs of such a community be discussed and decided in the open at City Hall, not in the closed conference rooms of NASA Ames.

Of course, it would be important to determine whether new property taxes and other revenues would out-pace the cost of delivering expanded city services at Moffett. We have no doubt that city officials would thoroughly vet the financial implications before coming to a decision. But it is a tantalizing prospect, and one we hope will be given serious consideration.


Posted by Jane, a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 13, 2011 at 8:47 am

Mountain View is already such an awesome place to live - adding the historic Hangar One as part of what we offer to the community, the Bay Area and the country would continue our innovative and forward-thinking style. This is a great opprotunity to preserve the Hangar and to have a venue like no other. As the author of the letter points out, only two years ago our city officials were poised to invest $30 million on a hotel and convention center near Google in the Shoreline area. Hangar One would be unique as a convention center, seen from the air and from the hills all around the Bay Area. Also, adding Hangar One to the Shoreline tax district could help leverage the bond money to restore it, and the revenues from Hangar One could help fund city services. Sounds like Mountain View should be the leader in pursuing this chance for a landmark which would keep us on the map globally!

Posted by Mike Laursen, a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 13, 2011 at 12:38 pm

I like the idea of the City of Mountain View (or would it have to be Mountain View and Sunnyvale?) taking over the underutilized Moffett area and facilitating development of commercial real estate, housing, etc.

I doubt, when the cost analysis is done, that it's going to pan out that saving Hangar One could be made profitable. If it could, that would be great. Be wary of anyone who proposes a "profitable" scheme based on projections of revenue streams such as convention bookings. Especially, if they're asking for investment of public funds.