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NASA looks to lease old shuttle facility

A pre-dawn view of the Vehicle Assembly Building May 9, 2009 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida two days before the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis, the final space shuttle mission to service NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

NASA has launched a kind of going out of business sale for the retired Space Shuttle program. Among the "out of this world" offers? How about a landing strip nearly three miles long? Or a giant hangar? What about a launch pad?

But this isn’t exactly like when a mom-and-pop retail business liquidates. This is all about leasing the shuttle’s old digs, not selling them. And the process has been mostly low-key, because the agency wants bidders to put forth their highest price without worrying about competitors.

“I’d love to be the broker in that deal,” says Don Wood, a commercial real estate broker who has worked in the shadow of the Kennedy Space Center for decades. He estimates the whole facility is worth $5 billion to $7 billion. That’s the tangible figure.

“But we’d need to establish the intangible value,” he says. “And that becomes the hard part.”

In other words, what do history and the associated boost in public profile mean to companies like satellite and aerospace manufacturers?

That means we’re probably not talking fire-sale prices here, even if much of the Space Center needs fixing up.

“There are a lot of facilities that are old and may have to be abandoned, replaced or ‘demo-ed,’” says Frank DiBello, who heads Space Florida. It’s charged with growing the state’s aerospace industry, and in this case, helping to attract companies. “Many of those facilities they can have commercial use.”

A NASA spokeswoman says she can’t talk specifics, but says there is a lot of interest. And it’s not all aerospace.

So the problem isn’t about finding someone to lease parts of the facility, it is about finding one quickly. Federal funds to maintain Kennedy Space Center dry up at the end of the year.

About the author

Jim Burress is a reporter for WABE in Atlanta.
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