Council Tours Point’s Future Development

Dennis Evanosky     Base Reuse & Community Development Assistant Director Nanette Mocanu (far right) addressed (from left to right) Base Reuse & Community Development Director Debbie Potter, Councilmember Malia Vella, Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, Councilmembers Jim Oddie and Tony Daysog, as well as City Manager Eric Levitt, Vice-Mayor John Knox White and members of the public. Mocanu was describing improvements underway at Building 360 at Alameda Point during a special City Council meeting.

The Alameda City Council met last Monday to tour the Enterprise District at Alameda Point. After a brief meeting at the Ron Cowan Central Bay Operations and Maintenance Facility, Councilmembers toured the district with two stops: Building 530 at 120 Oriskany Ave. and Building 360 on an 18-acre site at West Pacific Avenue and Skyhawk Street. 

Building 530 now sits vacant. According to the staff report, the City Council is considering leasing this site to Nautilus Data Technologies, which the report describes as “a green technology data service.” According to the company’s website, Nautilus “created the world’s most innovative water-cooled data center design. Nautilus further states that its water-cooling system is more efficient than air cooling and is not connected to or have any impact on any public water infrastructure.” 

According to a February 2019 city memorandum, Nautilus has been interested in developing a data storage facility at Alameda Point for approximately two years. “Initially, Nautilus was interested in locating its water-cooled data storage system on a barge at the piers, a technology it is currently piloting at the Port of Stockton,” the memo states. However, after touring Alameda Point and seeing Building 530 and its proximity to the water and its lack of windows, affording privacy, the company thought the building would be ideal for a land-based, water-cooled data storage facility.

The memo also pointed out that Nautilus would “become one of the largest consumers of energy from Alameda Municipal Power, which is important for the infrastructure development at Alameda Point and the community.” 

Astra Space is currently working on a build-out of Building 360, the second stop on the tour. The company currently works out of Building 397, a 17,400-square-foot structure that the Navy built to overhaul aircraft and test jet engines. The company raised more than a few eyebrows last February, when neighbors (and a Channel 7 news helicopter) spotted a rocket emerging from this building (“Company Testing Rocket Technology,” Feb. 22, 2018).

The Alameda Sun learned at the time that Astra Space “designs, tests, manufactures and operates next-generation launch services.” In 2015 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration selected the company for a pair of research awards to develop propulsion systems for use in space and — in the words of the press release announcing the award — “on other worlds.” One of the awards is financing the company’s research, a “pump-fed propulsion system for a Mars ascent vehicle,” the release stated.

In a memorandum to the City Council at the time, city staff expressed “hope that (the company) will … consider expanding its innovative operations or be a catalyst for other similar companies.” This appears to be the case with Astra Space’s planned move into Building 360.

After the tour, the Council unanimously approved a motion to give staff the green light to put plans into motion to redevelop a 23.9-acre portion of the district around where Nautilus could locate. The staff report described this property as “an appropriate first phase to be marketed, either by a developer, an end-user or a team that could deliver both the required backbone infrastructure improvements and the commercial tenants.” 

If all goes as planned, sale of this property would generate some $31 million. The funds from the sale are expected to cover the approximate $26 million cost of phase-one backbone infrastructure improvements.