NASA has requested $32.8 million to restore iconic Hangar One at Moffett Field, potentially ending a long preservation battle.
The Hangar One funds are part of President Barack Obama's 2012 budget request of $18.7 billion for NASA, which would send $754 million to NASA Ames Research Center. The Hangar One funds would have to survive routine changes to NASA's budget by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, where Republicans want to cut NASA's budget down to 2008 levels.
While it is good news, preservationists aren't about to stop their efforts.
"There's a long road ahead," said Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board member Steve Williams in an e-mail.
Hangar One's recent history is full of actions that seemed to promise Hangar One's restoration. Just last December, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo's earmark to save Hangar One failed when Republicans took control of the House.
"These repeated efforts demonstrate the government's commitment to Hangar One, matching the community's," Williams said in a blog post on NASA's budget request.
The U.S. Navy in the process of having Hangar One's toxic siding removed this year, which will leave behind a bare skeleton. The Hangar One funding request appears to be the full amount needed to "install new exterior siding, roof and windows" for "a weather tight structure" that will "best reflect the historic nature of this structure," according to the NASA 2010 budget report.
A last-minute effort is underway to find a wealthy donor to save Hangar One's 4,000-plus unique windows with $575,000 to $1.2 million by the end of February, in order for the Navy's demolition contractor to exercise that option in its contract. "That money is needed more urgently than the government can provide," wrote Williams in a blog post.
Preservationists hope that the budget proposal will help the effort to save the windows by showing that the restoration is imminent. A wealthy donor won't donate the money "if it looks like the windows are going to sit in warehouse for 50 years," said Lenny Siegel, a leader of preservation efforts and director of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight.
"I'm highly encouraged that the President has committed in his budget to preserve Moffett Field's historic Hangar One," said Congresswoman Anna Eshoo in a statement. "This is just the first step in the appropriations process and while there are many others, I'll continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to see that this historic building and landmark in the heart of Silicon Valley is preserved for future generations."
The NASA budget report also estimates that 12 jobs will have to be eliminated this year at Ames under Obama's budget, but also estimates that Ames' 2,500 employees would not face layoffs under a proposed budget strategy ending in 2016. If the Republican proposal to cut back to 2008 funding levels is successful, many more people could be laid off.