Air Force facility is the result of a rare land swap

June 01, 2006 |

The development team working on the nation's first-of-its-kind land swap arrangement with the U.S. Air Force recently completed construction of a new facility for the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, Calif.

The unique land swap deal, in which USAF-owned land was traded to private developers for the construction of the SAMS facilities, kept the base off the military's Base Realignment and Closure list.

The deal required an Act of Congress to permit a land trade in return for new facilities. The result was a developer competition in which competitors had to contain construction cost of the project to a level close to the value of land being traded.

Winners of the competition—a consortium of Kearny Real Estate Co., Catellus Development Corp., and Morgan Stanley Real Estate Fund, based on a design by Nadel Architects—received three vacated Air Force base sites totaling more than 63 acres in exchange for the design and construction of SAMS, the USAF's premier space acquisition center responsible for research, development, acquisition, and on-orbit testing of military space and missile systems.

Many of the base's old buildings were outdated and not seismically secure, and it would have cost "a fortune" for the military to repair the buildings in a conventional way, says R. Michael Walden, SVP and director of design with Nadel Architects.

"It's taken decades to develop this expertise in the military," says Walden. "Why on earth would you want to close this base and force people to go somewhere else or relocate?"

Nadel wanted to create an office design that was flexible, stimulating, and featured state-of-the-art equipment. "It's designed to look very spacey and elegant," says Walden. "You're not going to find space like this in most military facilities."

The $125 million project features two four-story office buildings totaling 535,000 sf, a 17,000-sf child development center, and a planned office building.

The campus consolidates 2,200 SAMS employees who were previously spread among three bases.

Large floor plates in excess of 65,000 sf per floor allowed Nadel to create a flexible office design. Designers pulled conference room and support areas toward the interior to create large, flexible areas of office space. Raised floors with under-floor air distribution allow workspaces to be quickly reconfigured.

The buildings feature exposed beams, angular windows, and a structural system of diagonal-braced frames designed to create a visual reference to space and flight. Each building also conforms to the Department of Defense blast requirements.

The USAF completed its move into the new facilities in March, five months ahead of schedule.

The remaining 63.5 acres that went to the developer as compensation are currently being developed for much-needed housing in the area.

"It was a win-win-win deal," says Walden.

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