HAMPTON—A 19th-century Army post with fantastic views of the bay, hundreds of buildings in various states of repair and National Historic Landmark status was put on the Pentagon's base closing list. In 1989.
Yet another went on the list Friday.
U.S. Army post in 1850 and was one of the oldest active bases in the country when it closed in 1996.
Fort Monroe hit the Pentagon's closing list Friday. The fort, composed of hand-cut stones with a moat, once defended the Chesapeake Bay from intruders. It opened in 1823 and now has 3,500 military and civilian jobs that would be moved elsewhere, unless local politicians are able to persuade the Base Realignment and Closure Commission otherwise. Local historians say it's the third-oldest Army post in operation.
The Presidio was empty in 1996. Today, 2,400 people live there, and 2,000 people work at 150 businesses on the site, managed by The Presidio Trust, a nonprofit creation of Congress. It began work in 1998 and also handles hundreds of acres of scenic parkland and bayside overlooks.
It generates $40 million a year in revenue to ensure preservation of the more than 469 buildings and 300 other features designated "historic."
The trust's work at The Presidio might provide a model -- or at least a guide -- for how Hampton can balance the interests of history and economics at Fort Monroe.
Politicians and government officials from Washington to Hampton don't want to talk about what might happen if the post closes, though they say they're confident that they can wring some positives out of the situation. For now, they're focused on saving the base, they say.
If the worst comes, "then we'll take a look at those alternatives," says Tom Gordy, chief of staff for Rep. Thelma Drake, R-Norfolk. Monroe sits in Drake's sprawling district.
Still, Gordy's seen the job that The Presidio Trust has done working with the old post in San Francisco, and he's impressed: "What a beautiful place that is."
Ron Sonenshine, spokesman for The Presidio Trust, says the organization is proud of its success so far.
"I think we're all really optimistic," he says. "We're not popping champagne corks, though."
Some fairly unusual circumstances have helped The Presidio get to this point, he says. "I don't know if it would work in many other communities."
Tim Ford of the National Association of Installation Developers -- a trade association for businesses that help turn old bases into viable, tax-generating real estate -- agrees.
"It's in San Francisco, right next to the Golden Gate Bridge," he says. "So some of the economics might not be available in other places."
Because of the location, "they were able to do some very select development," he says.
One example is the nearly finished filmmaking campus of George Lucas of "Star Wars" fame, a $350 million effort that pays the trust $6 million a year in rent, Sonenshine says. But many of the others are schools, small businesses and offices.
The Presidio also had a minimal environmental problem compared with most military bases -- and no significant level of buried ordnance.
Fort Monroe, on the other hand, is plagued with 1,300 underground sites where weapons are thought to be buried.