Rehab Falters at Historical Bachelor Enlisted Quarters

Photo by Richard Bangert

The BEQ forms the backdrop for many a soccer game at Alameda Point. The Alameda Soccer Club leases the fields that can play host to around 100 East Bay teams during the club’s seasons.

Outdoor soccer activities thrive in the field outside the Bachelor Enlisted Quarters (BEQ) on Lexington Street at Alameda Point. Unfortunately, potential indoor activities languish for lack of a viable business plan.

Negotiations for converting the BEQ to an international boarding school and a senior assisted living facility ended on Jan. 31, without a deal. The City Council had authorized a six-month exclusive negotiating agreement with developer Alameda United Commercial (AUC) in August 2014. The developer sought to purchase 20 acres that includes the U-shaped three-building BEQ complex, but not the quadrangle lawn used by soccer teams.

Despite a favorable staff recommendation to the Planning Board in December to approve the development plan for the project, agreement on terms of the deal could not be reached.

The international school (K-12) would have offered boarding for students in junior high and older, commercial offices, an assisted senior living facility and recreation and dining amenities. The developer proposed landscaping upgrades, 500 bike racks and up to 1,000 parking spaces. "The uses of the site will provide financial support to expand transit services to Alameda Point and the users of the property," stated city planner Andrew Thomas.

The proposed deal called for the city to receive $7.76 million that would have remained dedicated to Alameda Point. In addition, the developer was going to provide roadway, sidewalk, bike lane and utility infrastructure upgrades to the surrounding four streets totaling $20 million, according to a letter to the city from AUC’s Salvatore Caruso.

The BEQ complex, with a 518,219-square-foot building footprint, is one of the most important contributing sites to the Naval Air Station Historic District. The U.S. Navy built the complex in 1940 to provide facilities for the boarding, dining and recreating of enlisted men. The architectural style of the complex is known as "Moderne" and is a unifying design theme of the Historic District.

"The city remains very interested in developing the BEQ and believes firmly that it has the potential to be a flagship development in Alameda Point," said Jennifer Ott, Chief Operating Officer for Alameda Point. "We will be open to any proposals that come our way in the future."

Meanwhile, the four soccer fields on the BEQ Quadrangle that are leased to the Alameda Soccer Club are booked solid on weekends by as many as 100 East Bay soccer teams affiliated with the club. The soccer club funded the replacement of various lawn sections and general lawn refurbishment last year as part of its lease agreement.

The exteriors of the fortress-like reinforced concrete buildings show few signs of cracking and structural deterioration. The interiors are a different story.

Metal thieves have trashed the insides to remove copper wire. With the copper cache picked clean, thieves have turned to aluminum, removing a 15-foot-long aluminum handrail from a mess hall staircase. Some night visitors just come to party and leave behind their spray-painted artwork on the walls. Peeling layers of paint the size of a hand towel dangle from the ceiling of the mess hall kitchen.

"I think it is likely that as Site A [a 68-acre proposed residential and commercial development next to the Seaplane Lagoon] hopefully comes to fruition there will be increased attention on the historic properties in Alameda Point and we will receive more interest in the property," said Ott.

Last year, negotiations between the city and AUC on a separate proposal to construct a hotel and condominium project between the aircraft hangars and the Seaplane Lagoon also ended without a deal.

Richard Bangert writes the Alameda Point Environmental Report blog at https://alamedapoint where photos of the BEQ can be viewed.