How I learned to stop worrying and buy an ICBM silo

With the Cold War long over, former nuclear missile silos across the US are finding new civilian uses. And one can be yours for $60,000.

Following the Cold War, the Pentagon has slowing been selling off former military bases as part of its realignment program, which has provided investment opportunities for some private equity real estate firms. Last year, for example, a consortium of investors acquired the decommissioned El Toro Marine Base in Irvine, California, paying $650 million (€500 million) for the rights to redevelop the former military base.

Some for-sale military properties, however, have yet to capture the attention of the private equity real estate community—which makes sense, since many of the properties are below the earth’s surface. Nevertheless, these decommissioned missile silos, once home to nuclear weapons with names like Nike, Atlas and Titan, have been acquired by private individuals looking for a unique living experience.

Gary Pipes of Pleasant Hill, Missouri bought a former silo for around $200,000. The 15-acre plot includes three underground bunkers. “I thought it was a good investment,” Pipes told a reporter for the McClatchy newspaper chain. He is thinking about turning the facility into a place to store RVs, classic cars or boats—especially since the old elevator that used to load the missiles is still functioning.

Other silos have been acquired by schools and used as classrooms, turned into scuba diving attractions or redeveloped as a museum—that one still has a missile in it.

Ed Peden not only lives in a former Atlas Missile silo in Kansas, he also started acquiring and selling them via his realty business, 20th Century Castles, which sports the tagline “Unique Underground Properties.” Peden has sold more than 27 of the properties and is currently listing a number of silos and communications vaults on his website.

“These massive fortified structures were designed to withstand a nuclear attack, and as such they redefine the meaning of the word ‘shelter,’” the site reads. “Hundreds of years after all current surface dwellings have crumbled to dust, these will remain. They are truly the ‘castles’ of the twentieth century.”

Prices range from $60,000 for a communications vault near Stillwater, Oklahoma to $1.3 million for a 45,000-square-foot missile silo outside of Denver, Colorado.

“The markets have held up for reasons we do not yet know.”

Alan Greenspan, at the fall PREA conference, speaking about the resiliency of the US economy in the face of a softening housing market (p. 40)

“Oil and real estate investment, primarily in urban areas, is really what’s driving the economy.”

Michael Kevane, an associate professor of economics at Santa Clara University, discussing the economic boom in Sudan, despite civil war in certain parts of the country, in The New York Times

“Politicians love to talk about architecture and new buildings. Water bores them.”

S. Janakarajan, a professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies, discussing the detrimental impact that real estate development is having on India’s water supply, in The New Yorker

“In my 15 years here, I have never seen so much foreign capital. Investors are not bottom-fishing. We have passed that point.”

Jeremy Lake, executive director of investment sales at Richard Ellis, discussing the real estate market in Singapore, in The Business Standard

“People like Donald Trump buy and sell air rights over city buildings all the time. If the third dimension is negotiable, the higher dimensions must be as well.”

Conceptual artist Jonathon Keats discussing his recent purchase of the higher dimensional rights—based on string theory—for six properties in the San Francisco area

“It’s basically been a supernova in terms of its growth. It’s a major suburb of Kansas City and for whatever reason has become the place to go. And that I can’t explain.”

Arthur Hall, of the University of Kansas School of Business, quoted in The New York Times discussing why Olathe, Kansas saw the biggest jump in the percentage of people paying at least 30 percent, as well as 50 percent, of their income on rent