VALLEJO -- A panel Thursday night approved plans to build a memorial for a former nuclear-armed submarine built on Mare Island during the height of the Cold War.
The project involves installing the sail of the USS Mariano G. Vallejo in front of the Mare Island Historic Park Foundation museum, at 1100 Railroad Ave.
The proposal was approved by the Architectural Heritage and Landmarks Commission in a 5-0 vote. The commission reviewed the plans because the museum building is listed as a "city landmark" within the Mare Island Historic District.
The M.G. Vallejo was one of seven Navy submarines built on Mare Island equipped to launch ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. The ships were part of a fleet of 41 nuclear subs meant to serve as a deterrent to the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
The vessel was built in 1964 and 1965, when Mare Island was one of two shipyards -- and the only one on the West Coast -- licensed to build nuclear-powered submarines. It was decommissioned and scrapped in 1995, and only the sail -- the iconic tower that housed the periscope -- was preserved. The relic currently sits behind a chain-link fence on the waterfront near the museum.
For the past four years, the foundation's Save Our Sail group has sought to find a fitting home for the 14-foot-tall, 45-foot-long sail.
"We don't consider it an artifact," group member John Chamberlain told the commission. "It's a memorial to the people who sailed it ... and to the people here who built it."
The project, which requires a city building permit, will cover about 4,000 square feet of the museum's parking area. It will consist of a foundation to hold the sail as well as an access ramp for people with disabilities. The plans also call for displays of historical information and landscaping.
The group anticipates completing the foundation and moving the sail to the proposed site by the middle of next year. Proposed restraining walls and curbs would be built by mid-2016, or as funding is available, Chamberlain said.
The third and final stage, which involves installing the landscaping, is proposed for mid-2017.
Chamberlain said the project's estimated cost is $76,000. The group has raised about $26,000 so far, he added, which is enough to complete the first phase.
A corresponding exhibit of the submarine's control room is nearly complete and already on display inside the museum.