'Why doesn't Google pay for it?' has been the sort of comment often made by those frustrated by the years-long struggle to save landmark Hangar One at Moffett Field. But on Thursday it was announced that the principals of Google are willing to do just that.
As its toxic siding is stripped off in a Navy-led environmental cleanup, a proposal to restore and lease the 200-foot-tall 1933 icon was publicly announced Thursday night by Ken Ambrose, director of H211 LLC, which runs a fleet of private jets out of Moffett Field for Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin, and chairman Eric Schmidt.
Ambrose told a subcommittee of the Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board that Google's leaders would pay 100 percent of the cost to restore the hangar and the shell in return for a long-term lease of the hangar for storing the Google leaders' eight planes, including two jumbo jets and several Gulfstream jets.
Preservationists at the meeting were supportive of the proposal as Google's leaders appear to be interested in working with the community for a historically sensitive restoration. Ambrose confirmed that Google's leaders aren't interested in painting a large Google sign on the side. And with plenty of room inside one of the world's largest freestanding structures, Ambrose also said Google's proposed use is "not incompatible" with sharing it or subleasing it for other uses, such as the Moffett Field History Museum and the major air and space museum that preservationists have proposed.
"It appears to be the only thing going, to save the hangar," said Lenny Siegel, a longtime leader of the effort to save Hangar One. A $32 million request from NASA to restore the hangar appears to have little support in Congress, where the proposal was sharply criticized in an Inspector General's report.
Siegel said he has known about the proposal for several months but decided to ask Ambrose to pitch the proposal to the public because it's not been a slam dunk. It has been two months since the proposal was made and despite support from NASA Ames Research Center, where Hangar One is located, there has been no response from NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C.
"They are in radio silence," Ambrose said.
Siegel speculated that the proposal could be seen as a threat to some in Washington, D.C., who want to see the Moffett airfield, where Hangar One sits, sold or surplussed by the federal government. There may also be some concern from the White House about the appearance of doing a favor for President Barack Obama's supporters at Google.
But with half of the toxic laminate siding of Hangar One now stripped off its massive metal skeleton, "I feel a real sense of urgency," Ambrose said. He said there was $12 million dollars worth of scaffolding inside of the hangar. Whether or not it could be reused to restore the hangar "could be the difference" between it being financial feasible or not, he said.