There was no ceremony, no party, just a quiet transfer. Google is now the custodian of the giant airship hangars at Moffett Field.
The tech company will lease the historic buildings and 1,000 surrounding acres for the next 60 years.
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The deal calls for Google to restore the hangers.
Engineers are expected to use them to develop the technology of the future, including drones.
“We’re thrilled to take over operations of Moffett federal airfield effective April 1, and to roll-up our sleeves at the site,” Google said in a statement. “We’re proud to have the opportunity to restore the remarkable hangar one.
Google’s executives have long operated their fleet of private jets out of NASA’s Moffett Field thanks to a long-standing deal with the U.S. government, but it looks like Google is ready to expand its presence at the Silicon Valley airfield. The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and NASA today announced that Planetary Ventures LLC, a shell company Google occasionally uses for its real-estate deals, has been selected as the preferred lessee for Moffett Field and Hangar One.
The iconic Hangar One will be rehabilitated under this proposal. Google’s executives – through H211, an LLC that operates their jets – had previously tried to work with NASA to revamp the hangar, but was rebuffed by NASA at the time. Just a few years ago, the Navy stripped the toxic panels from the structures outside and, currently, only its skeleton remains. Under the new proposal, Google will “rehabilitate and maintain the historic integrity of Hangar One and the Shenandoah Plaza Historic District.” Google will re-skin Hangar One, upgrade the existing golf course and also create a public use and education facility on the airfield.
“Hangar One was the landmark of Silicon Valley well before the rise of today’s high-tech titans. Naming a lessee is a testament to GSA’s commitment to providing the best value for the agency’s federal partners and the American people. NASA’s partnership with the private sector will allow the agency to restore this treasure for more efficient use,” the GSA’s Dan Tangherlini said in a canned statement explaining the decision today.
It’s worth noting that today’s agreement just means NASA will now negotiate the lease terms with Planetary Ventures/Google, but given Google’s deep pockets and interest in the project, it seems unlikely that this project won’t proceed.
H211 is also currently involved in a project to expand the $82 million private jet center at San Jose International Airport. It’s not clear if today’s announcement will change any of these plans.
Google itself, it is worth noting, has no direct relationship with H211.
In the past, H211 has been widely criticized for getting tax cuts on the jet fuel it purchased at a discount from the government, and, unsurprisingly, Consumer Watchdog‘s Privacy Project Director John M. Simpson today noted that “This is like giving the keys to your car to the guy who has been siphoning gas from your tank. It is unfairly rewarding unethical and wrongful behavior. These Google guys seem to think they can do whatever they want and get away with it – and it’s beginning to look like that is true.”