CONCORD -- Officials and planners have described the Concord Naval Weapons Station as a "reuse" of the land. The blueprints call for transforming the more than 5,000 acres of military-owned property -- with its barbed-wire fences and ammunition bunkers emerging from the rolling land -- into a suburban community of homes, shops and schools, with a population more than twice the size of nearby Clayton.
But the term "reuse" also has another application here. The concrete from the bunkers is to be ground up and used as a base for the neighborhood's new roads. Steel from the buildings and miles of rails from the train tracks linking all those bunkers will be recycled to help pay for part of the massive project.
And a set of stained-glass windows commemorating the victims of the horrific Port Chicago explosion is being preserved for a public memorial.
While the rusting rail lines and 259 bunkers may not look like Park Avenue, they are worth millions of dollars, according to officials.
"To build out there is going to take a lot of money," Mayor Ron Leone said. "We have to put in streets and lights and pipes ... so the more money we can get out of any recycling program is going in the long run to assist us."
The city estimates there is big money languishing on the property -- $4.1 million in recycling revenue from the 150 miles of rail steel and an additional $4.2 million from recycled steel from buildings.
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The money could help pay for the project itself, or potentially go into the general funds of the agencies that take over the land from the Navy, which include Concord, the East Bay Regional Park District and the Contra Costa Sheriff's Office.
"It is so profitable for a lot of companies that engage in decommissioning that they will come in and pull the buildings down for no cost in return for being able to recycle the materials and resell them into the market," said Wright, who said there is a large market for steel in Asia.
Will Evans, general manager of Evans Brothers of Livermore, estimates his company spends $70 a ton to dispose of material while salvaging steel can bring in $200 a ton in revenue.
Evans Brothers completed a nine-month demolition of San Francisco's Transbay Terminal in May 2011, and all of the material was reused, he said. The concrete and steel rebar were crushed and put on a conveyor belt that used a magnet to separate the steel, Evans said.
"It's great to say we are doing the environmental thing, but at the same time it is much more cost-effective," Evans said.
A bit of history will also be preserved. Stained-glass windows depicting the Port Chicago explosion have been put in storage and are on display at the Rosie the Riveter WWII Homefront museum in Richmond. Officials plan to display them in a memorial at the new development.
The stained-glass windows were installed Nov. 1, 1991, when the chapel was remodeled and rededicated as the Port Chicago Memorial Chapel. Two of the stained-glass windows list the names of the 320 people -- 202 of them black enlisted men -- who died July 17, 1944, in an explosion after loading thousands of tons of ammunition. It was the worst homefront disaster of World War II.
Preserving the history of the site brings comfort to John Keibel, who wrote about the base's history in "Behind the Barbed Wire Fence."
"All those things start to interweave themselves and develop a fabric," Keibel said. "And if I dare sound to be a little cute here, when you weave fabric you create a blanket of comfort."
The memorial will be more accessible than the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial on the base, Leone said.
"It's extremely frustrating for the citizens and veterans that want to have access to it and are not able to see it," the mayor said. "It also prevents us from educating people on what happened because you can't bring classes of students and just have people come out there and see it."
The ambitious weapons station reuse plan, which will take decades to complete, is inching along. The Navy is preparing its environmental report, expected to take 18 to 24 months to complete. It will pave the way for the Navy to begin transferring parcels to the city and other agencies.
At build-out, the development as planned would include 12,272 homes, 6 million square feet of commercial and retail space, 780 acres of new parks, 2,700 acres of open space in a community for 28,000 people. It is expected to add 26,500 permanent jobs.
The City Council approved the plan and incorporated it into its 30-year general plan in January.
David DeBolt covers Concord and Clayton. Contact him at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.