Finalists For NASA Development To Be Announced

Four teams seek master developer status for $900 million campus

By Sharon Simonson

Four large, well-known development teams with a span of experience creating master-planned communities have responded to a request for qualifications to build a 21st-century education, work and residential campus at NASA Ames-Moffett Field.

University Associates-Silicon Valley LLC, the company spearheading the development, intends to select a first-round of finalists next week, said President William E. Berry.

University Associates will work with each finalist to develop a business plan, Berry said. Those plans, which should include information on financing for the massive project, are to be complete by October. In November, a master developer will be selected.

The four teams are led by San Jose’s Barry Swenson Builder, Lowe Enterprises Inc. of Los Angeles, Orange County’s SunCal Cos. and San Francisco’s TMG Partners, Berry said. All four have extensive development experience.

SunCal lists 20 large-scale community development projects on its Web site including Fairway Canyon, a 985-acre golf-oriented community in Beaumont, Calif., and SeaCliff Estates in Point Richmond. The bulk of its projects are in Southern California.

Barry Swenson has done work across Silicon Valley, including the construction of some of the South Bay’s first high-rise residential condo towers.

Lowe Enterprises, which also has San Francisco and Sacramento offices, has partnered with Palo Alto multifamily developer Essex Property Trust Inc. and Swinerton Construction in addition to others, Berry said. Lowe is currently developing $3 billion of commercial and resort residential projects across the country and manages more than $4 billion of real estate assets on behalf of institutional and investment clients.

Meanwhile, TMG, which has done extensive, sophisticated development in San Francisco and other Bay Area cities, has partnered with The Related Cos., a New York-based developer with offices in Los Angeles. Related is perhaps most recognized for the massive, mixed-use Time Warner Center at 10 Columbus Circle in New York.

At least one of the four contenders, and possibly more, will be eliminated in this first round of competition, Berry said.

NASA is seeking to use University Associates to create a shared-use research and development campus at Ames. Its goal is to bring industry, academia, nonprofits and government together on the new campus to study a range of science and technologies. Among the proposed topics are astrobiology; life, space, earth and microgravity sciences; and information, nano- and clean technologies.

University Associates intends to sign a sublease with the master developer for 77 acres at the 1,800-acre NASA Ames Research Center. University Associates, a partnership of regional higher-education institutions, entered a 95-year ground lease with NASA Ames for the 77 acres in December. The land fronts U.S. 101 and is adjacent to a proposed Google Inc. campus that will have more than a million square feet.

The master developer is asked to deliver $100 million in roads, water and other infrastructure plus 1,930 homes, as much as 650,000 square feet of classrooms and research facilities, 300,000 square feet of offices and 100,000 square feet of retail. The developer has the option of building 250,000 square feet of hotel and conference space, the RFQ shows.

“We were very pleased with the response we have gotten” in light of the economic environment, Berry said.

The University of California, Santa Cruz is the lead partner for University Associates. Foothills-DeAnza Community College District is also a partner and is proposing a campus at Ames as well. San Jose State University, Santa Clara University and Carnegie Mellon University also are exploring roles.

UC-Santa Cruz has sought to expand its Silicon Valley presence for a number of years. It has chosen to forward that goal via a relationship with NASA, and in 2003, won a $330 million research contract with NASA Ames Research Center. In 2005, UC-Santa Cruz signed an 18,000 square-foot lease for space at the NASA Research Park for its Jack Baskin School of Engineering.

The proposed project, which is supposed to be a model of modern environmental technology, has not been entitled locally, Berry said, though the hope is that an approved federal environmental assessment will ease the strain of producing the version required by the California Environmental Quality Act. The property has been designated a Superfund site, he said.

No development would be expected for another five years, Berry said.

“We picture the housing for students and some faculty, and NASA is looking to access the housing as well,” he said. “There would be a priority list that would offer the housing first to people who work at the Moffett site and adjacent areas.”

He would not say, however, what kind of returns he expected the master developer to earn. “The developer will make a return on investment on the housing and industry space, and we would hope to work something out that they would make less profit on the academic piece,” he said.