4:12am

Sat February 11, 2012
Space

A Real Estate Deal That Spans The Earth

Originally published on Sat February 11, 2012 9:46 am

For sale: 160 acres of rolling hills in California perfect for a vineyard, cattle ranch or communication with outer space.

To understand how Silicon Valley businessman Jeffrey Bullis ended up owning the Jamesburg Earth Station — a former telecommunications center with a 10-story satellite dish — you have to think back to 2004.

The real estate market was booming. Bullis was visiting a friend in Carmel Valley on California's Central Coast, where homes can still sell for millions.

"I was like, I'd like to retire out here. What's available? What's a nice piece of property?" Bullis says. "Back then, he's like, 'Well nothing really good,' he says, 'but the Earth Station's for sale, why don't you go buy it?' "

So Bullis did — complete with a barn, a small house, a 21,000-square-foot bombproof building and an enormous satellite dish. For decades, the Jamesburg Earth Station was a relay point to broadcast countless historical events, like Tiananmen Square, the Vietnam War and the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Fiber optics replaced the Earth Station's function, so it closed in 2002. When Bullis bought it, he had to clean out a lot of obsolete equipment. As he walks through one of the cavernous, gymnasium-sized rooms, he says this has been his party house.

"It's a great basketball room. It's a shooting range, archery room. Kids come out, they have fun. That's what it's all about now," he says.

"It would be the most unique sale I've ever made," says Bullis' real estate agent, Bert Aronson. The property is back on the market.

"[I'm] hoping that somebody who wanted to ... grow grapes out there might want to store the finished product in the building when they were finished," he says.

As it turns out, the greatest interest in the property has been because of that satellite dish. NASA contractor Dennis Wingo is seriously looking at it. He's advising a team competing for the Google Lunar X Prize, a $20 million award for the first privately funded team to get a rover to travel on the moon.

"We would control them from here," Wingo says. "To me, that's way more fun than worrying about the past. As important as the past is, I kind of look forward toward the future."

At this point, Wingo hasn't made an offer, so the property is still on the market. The asking price for the dish, the bunker and the land: $4.2 million.

Copyright 2013 KAZU-FM. To see more, visit http://www.kazu.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

For Sale: 160 acres of rolling hills in California that's perfect for a vineyard, a cattle ranch - or communication with outer space.

From member station KAZU, Krista Almanzan has the story.

KRISTA ALMANZAN, BYLINE: To understand how Silicon Valley businessman Jeffrey Bullis ended up owning the Jamesburg Earth Station, a former telecommunications center with a 10-story satellite dish, you have to think back to 2004. The real estate market was booming, and Bullis was visiting a friend in Carmel Valley on California's Central Coast, where homes can still sell for millions.

JEFFREY BULLIS: And I was like oh, I'd like to retire out here. What's available? What's a nice piece of property? And back then, he's like, well, nothing really good - he says - but the Earth Station's for sale. Why don't you go buy it?

ALMANZAN: So Bullis did - complete with a barn; small house; 21,000-square-foot, bomb-proof building; and that enormous satellite dish. For decades, the Jamesburg Earth Station was a relay point to broadcast countless historical events: Tiananmen Square, the Vietnam War, and...

BUZZ ALDRIN: That's one small step for man...

ALMANZAN: ...the Apollo 11 moon landing.

ALDRIN: ...one giant leap for mankind.

ALMANZAN: Fiber optics replaced the Earth Station's function, so it closed in 2002. When Bullis bought it, he had to clean out a lot of obsolete equipment. As he walks through one of the now-cavernous, gymnasium-sized rooms, he says this has been his party house.

BULLIS: It's a great basketball room. And we have, you know - it's a shooting range, archery room. Kids come up; they have fun. That's what it's all about now.

BERT ARONSON: It would be the most unique sale I've ever made.

ALMANZAN: That's Bullis' real estate agent, Bert Aronson. The property is back on the market.

ARONSON: Hoping that somebody who wanted to have a - grow grapes out there might also want to store the finished product in the building - when they were finished.

ALMANZAN: As it turns out, the greatest interest in this property has been because of that satellite dish. NASA contractor Dennis Wingo is seriously looking at it. He's advising a team competing for the Google Lunar X-Prize. That's a $20 million award for the first privately funded team to get a rover to travel on the Moon.

DENNIS WINGO: We would control them from here. To me, that's way more fun that worrying about the past. As important as the past is, I kind of look for - towards the future.

ALMANZAN: At this point, Wingo hasn't made an offer so the property is still on the market. Asking price for the dish, the bunker and the land: $4.2 million.

For NPR News, I'm Krista Almanzan in Carmel Valley.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.