Back in 2011, NASA had an offer on the table from Google to restore Hangar One in return for a long-term lease on the iconic building and permission to park its fleet of corporate jets there.
But NASA and the White House dithered, and in the end did nothing, allowing Google's offer to lapse. Instead, as the original owner, the Navy agreed to remove toxic siding from the hangar, but balked at spending the up-to-$30 million or more it would take to install new siding. So now the landmark structure stands out as one of the world's largest uncovered buildings, with its huge skeleton bare to the elements.
And that is the problem. Although the Navy used an epoxy to cover the skeleton to seal in any toxic substances still present, there is a question about whether the service will continue to do the required ongoing maintenance,
which Lenny Siegel, director of the Mountain View-based Center for Environmental Public Oversight, said would cost $6 million ($200,000 annually) over the next 30 years. Without regular inspections and touch-ups applied when cracks in the sealant are spotted, the hangar could once again be leaking toxic substances into the ground around the site. And now, Siegel says, the Navy is attempting to shift the burden of paying for the maintenance to NASA.
The aerospace agency is eager to get out of the airfield and hangar operations business, which is its intent in joining with the General Services Administration to seek proposals from companies to either lease Hangar One and 16 acres surrounding the property or lease both Hangar One and the airfield, including Hangars Two and Three and the nearby NASA golf course. Either option would require the lease-holder to restore Hangar One.
But although there is fear that a new operator of the airfield could turn Moffett Field into a new venue that would cater to business jets, so far, the GSA's request for proposals has gone unanswered. It there are no takers, it could mean that NASA and the White House let slip away a viable offer to recover Hangar One from H211LLC, the operator of Google's private air fleet. The company wanted a long-term lease on the hangar, a reasonable request given it could cost $30 million or more to re-cover the structure. All of this could be complicated by the need to continually inspect and repair the epoxy coating applied to the hangar's skeleton over the next 30 years.
We hope that a viable bid is received by the GSA soon (the deadline for receiving bids was extended from Sept. 30 to Oct. 16) that will not create another tug-of-war with the Navy over its responsibilities for Hangar One and the pollution it left behind. In our view, NASA and the administration made a serious error in not entering into a deal with Google to lease and restore siding on Hangar One. We're not sure there is anyone else out there who would be interested.