We’ve come a long way. During the Cold War, Americans built fallout shelters in their backyards in preparation for nuclear Armageddon. Today, in the unending quest for the ultimate amenity, new condos are being built in concrete bunkers deep underground, and their developers are touting them as “apocalypse-proof,” able to withstand today’s threats, from climate change to terrorism, cyberattacks, and civil unrest. And, oh yes, even a little good old-fashioned nuclear hardware.
“I’m saving lives,” the apocalypse-proof condo developer Larry Hall tells the New York Times. Hall has converted a former military nuclear missile vault into a luxury condominium built 15 stories underground, somewhere in Kansas, replete with such conventional amenities as a swimming pool, sauna, and movie theater. He is a leader among a new group of real estate developers investing in the nation’s central prairies and Western foothills: doomsday capitalists. “To me,” Hall says, “this is something to feel good about.
Bunker builders and brokers see the interior of the country, with its wide-open spaces, as a prime place to build. Aiding them is history. During the Cold War, the military spent billions of dollars constructing nuclear warheads and hiding them in underground lairs around the nation, often in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Those hideaways, emptied of their bombs, are now on the market and enterprising civilians are buying them (relatively) cheap and flipping the properties. Eager customers abound. The 12 apartments in the Survival Condo, as Hall calls it, begin at $1.3 million. When he started selling the condos around 2011, he said, all the units sold within months.
Not everyone is buying. Among the skeptics is John Hoopes, a professor of anthropology at the University of Kansas who spent years studying the myth that the world would end in 2012. “Fear sells even better than sex,” Hoopes says. “If you can make people afraid, you can sell them all kinds of stuff – and that includes bunkers.”
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