Only in Dreams
Remember BRAC? The independent commission that for military states meant impending doom? Well, while it was senators who howled the loudest back then, the closings of military bases over the last decade continue to pester cities despite a number of sparkly proposals over the years.
Last week, residents in Alameda, California, voted down an initiative that would have allowed an old naval air station to be converted into a mixed-use development of 4,500 units of apartments, condominiums and single-family homes, along with offices, parks and a ferry terminal. The development would have included close to 700 affordable housing units.
A project to build homes on the site of an old naval hospital in Oakland never got off the ground. The developer resorted to a fence around the property to keep out the homeless when it lost financing from Lehman Brothers.
Across the Bay, a fancy plan to turn Treasure Island--like Vegas, but not at all--into an urban planner's dream awaits the ability of San Francisco to pay the Navy for the land, protect the island against earthquakes and rising bay levels, and build a ferry terminal and roads. But if all that happens, the island will feature solar panels, streets at 68-degree angles, and an organic farm. Not to mention the proposal calls for 30 percent affordable housing.
Meanwhile, Gov. Ed Rendell has changed his mind about converting an old naval air station outside Philadelphia into a Homeland Security facility, leaving the locals to figure it out. The area is open for other redevelopment but not until the military scrubs out contamination at the Superfund site.
The common denominator seems to be the cost of cleaning up the sites and building new infrastructure, especially at a time when both public and private financing has dried up in many cities.