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Banks, however, have been unwilling to offer mortgages for the condos. Hall initially sold out of the homes in late 2010 with buyers dropping $50,000 deposits. Several buyers, though, couldn't come up with cash to go forward, so Hall refunded their deposits and started marketing them again last fall.
Real-estate broker Ed Peden sells old military installations and sold the silo to Hall. Peden, owner of 20th Century Castles, lives in an old silo outside Topeka and says most developers who buy these abandoned military sites don't build inside the silos themselves but refurbish the two-story "launch control center," which is also underground and connected to the silo by a tunnel. Peden says it's relatively easy to convert those nearly 5,000-square-foot spaces.
"The silo is definitely a big challenge," he says, adding that Hall's plan to build condos in the silo itself is a unique one. "We've sold a lot of those Atlas-F sites, and a lot of people talk about working with the silo. But he's the only one who's successfully done it."
Hall plans to turn the former control center into a hydroponic-produce garden.
Peden has sold 55 former military facilities in 18 years. He says it's no surprise that Hall's original buyers dropped out.
"I tell you what's happening the last couple of years: a lot of interest, not much buying," Peden says. "The banks are very tight, and they just probably won't even lend on these types of properties."
Peden says he sold one silo last year. Although he's intrigued by Hall's plan, the condo might not make economic sense.
"I worry a little for him there," Peden says. "I'm glad he's in that position and I'm in mine."
Hall theorizes about what event could send folks scurrying underground. His favorite theory: Solar flares knock out the power grid. Two days earlier, a solar storm — the strongest in nearly a decade, according to NASA scientists — diverted flights on polar routes between the United States and Asia.
The theory that Hall adheres to is that the sun will shoot humongous streams of charged particles, called coronal mass ejections, toward Earth. If the particles get through holes in the Earth's magnetic field, they could travel on power lines to transformers and destroy them, knocking out much of the grid. Although Survival Condo will be connected to the local power grid, Hall's contingency plan is for a wind turbine, a diesel generator and solar panels.
Hall believes this is the most likely scenario that will lead people to the condos. However, he says other doomsday events — food shortages, economic collapse, civil unrest, global weather changes — may force people underground.
"I think there are a lot of things the Survival Condo would be useful for," Hall says. "You know, pick your poison. Whatever worries you have may or may not worry me. But, in either case, I've got a one-size-fits-all solution."
Over lunch at a café and wine bar in a small town about 12 miles from the silo, Hall says life inside Survival Condo would operate in two modes: normal and lockdown. Under normal circumstances, the silo will be a regular condominium building with a homeowners association, contractors providing a security detail, and groundskeepers on the surface. But if a disaster struck, the silo would be sealed from the surface and the people inside would adhere to a set of democratically determined rules. Residents would eat stockpiled, certified-organic dehydrated food; produce grown in the hydroponic center; and farmed fish. The millionaire inhabitants would maintain the building through a task-rotation system, in which everyone would have to learn every job (operating pumps, working at the general store and other duties). If one person couldn't complete a chore, everyone would know how to do it. It also would keep people from resenting one another. It's an idea that he cribbed from the Biosphere 2 experiment.