Post-apocalyptic accommodations begin where the pavement ends on a stretch of highway in rural north-central Kansas. A white sign in the shape of an old-fashioned tombstone prop sits in the roadside's tall grass and reads, "This Old Missile Base." The sign's black, missile-shaped arrow points travelers off the highway and north on a rocky, muddy path.
A sliding gate, festooned with barbed wire and signs warning of surveillance cameras, blocks the end of the trail. The scene beyond the fence resembles any condominium construction site with dirt piles, trucks, a Bobcat and a Porta-Potty. The housing complex being built here isn't visible. It's underground, in what was an Atlas-F missile silo built in the early 1960s. Here, 54-year-old developer Larry Hall is converting the subterranean silo into million-dollar luxury dwellings that he calls "Survival Condo." Hall is marketing these homes — built with 9-foot-thick concrete walls and capable of withstanding a nuclear blast — to rich and famous buyers.
On a blustery late-January day, Hall walks out of the only aboveground building at the site, a 4,000-square-foot steel structure that's divided into a temporary two-bedroom home, an office and a storage area. He tells visitors that the security precautions are necessary to keep out snoops compelled to take a look once they hear about the silo.
"It's been crazy," Hall says. He insists that The Pitch and other media outlets not disclose the location of his silo.
Hall asks visitors to wipe their feet before entering his pristinely clean living room, where a 55-inch flat-screen television with DirecTV gleams. Visitors are often impressed, Hall says. "They go, 'Holy cow, dude. This is a man cave! I want to be out here.' "
A photo of Hall with former Minnesota governor and pro wrestler Jesse Ventura hangs on a living-room wall. It was taken during the filming of a 2010 episode of TruTV's Conspiracy Theory. Dozens of black-and-white photos show the Atlas-F, a 172-foot-deep submerged tube that housed an SM-65F missile, which was equipped with a nuclear warhead capable of hitting a target about 5,500 miles away. The only photo in the room unrelated to the silo's history is a portrait of Hall's 7-year-old son, Luke, in his soccer uniform.
With his 6-foot-3-inch frame and well-behaved gray hair, Hall looks the part of a developer, not a doomsday theorist. He wears a blue thermal shirt, jeans and work boots. For 25 years, Hall worked on defense and communications projects for the federal government and contractors, including Northrop Grumman.
Hall plans for Survival Condo to be the Park Avenue of the apocalypse. He has sliced the 52-foot-diameter silo into seven floors of circular condos. Each 1,800-square-foot floor can be bought for $2 million and can house up to 10 people. Half a floor goes for $1 million.
Hall describes the building as a resort. He lists the amenities: swimming pool, gym, pub, movie theater. Units will have biometric locks; stainless-steel kitchen appliances; and flat-panel screens that resemble windows and display pleasant views, such as the Golden Gate Bridge and sea life.
Hall has sold two units and reserved one for his family. He says the condos will be finished by June.
Who wants to buy a condo buried in Kansas? Hall says well-heeled buyers from around the world are looking for tony homes that can survive manmade and natural disasters. Twelve people have expressed interest so far.
"There's a NASCAR driver, an NFL player," Hall says. "There's a guy that writes books and is a movie producer. There's politicians. There's engineers. There's NASA scientists. There's doctors."
Hall won't name his buyers, but he says one is a mother of two teenagers. The woman designed her three-bedroom unit to have walk-in closets, a large dining room, a fireplace and a separate living space for her children. She added eight window screens that cost $15,000 apiece.