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Can Hangar One Be Restored?

Interior demolition of Hangar 1 is complete. Removal of the walls will begin in a few months. Lack of funding for re-skinning and preservation of artifacts threatens loss of this historic landmark.

Demolition of Hangar 1 is proceeding.  This spring, removal of the walls will begin, leaving just the structural frame. But funding to re-skin the hangar is evaporating, and the probability that it will be left as a deteriorating shell is increasing. Re-skinning requires that funding be found.

Here is the background for those unfamiliar with the issues:  In 1997, PCB was found in storm drains and the storm water retention pond at Moffett Field.  In 2003 the PCB source was identified as the walls of Hangar 1, which also contains asbestos and lead.  In October 2003 the entire hangar was sealed with an asphalt compound expected to prevent PCB leaching for 3 to 5 years.  Since this coating minimal PCB leaching has occurred.

Hangar 1 was identified as one of the 11 most threatened historical properties by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2008. In September 2009 the Navy, which is responsible for mitigating the contamination at Moffett Field, awarded a $22,300,000 contract to AMEC Earth & Environmental to demolish Hangar 1.  They began demolition of the interior in summer 2010 and recently completed removal of all interior offices, fixtures, and lighting.

Only $75,000 was set aside to preserve historic hangar artifacts. At the January 13 RAB meeting, Hangar 1 was discussed extensively. Among the irreplaceable artifacts that could be lost are the windows.  The upper two rows are unique wire-reinforced thick corrugated glass.  It would cost about $3,200,000 to preserve them for installation in a replacement hangar, and about $2,800,000 to scrap them.  RAB members urged the Navy and AMEC to preserve the windows by any means necessary rather than demolish them.  They were receptive but noncommittal.

NASA planned spending $20,000,000 towards re-skinning Hangar 1.  Congresswoman Eshoo had an $8,000,000 earmark for re-skinning Hangar 1 in the Federal appropriations bill that was killed last month.   Future Hangar 1 earmark funding is dubious considering the new tone in Congress.  NASA says threatened budget cuts make it unlikely $20,000,000 will be available for re-skinning Hangar 1.

Funding for preserving unique artifacts such as the corrugated glass windows may be available if organizations are willing to contribute to save artifacts in exchange for historic preservation offsets.  These contributions can include be tax benefits, or transfer of development rights. 

In Palo Alto, for example, contributions to upgrade Children’s Library bought ability to develop downtown property at higher density. In a best case, someone will donate money to re-skin Hangar 1 in exchange for tax benefits or expanded development rights.   Unless some such arrangement can be obtained soon for Hangar 1 the unique windows and other irreplaceable artifacts will be lost forever, and re-skinning will be delayed for many years, if it ever occurs.

Mike McMahon January 26, 2011 at 11:46 PM
Sic transit gloria mundi!

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