The next generation of underground bunkers

Economic crisis, 2012 omens, and the end of it all – a host of could-be catastrophes are leading survivalists and city slickers alike to seek shelter in the remnants of Cold War America.

Air raid drills during the Cold War, when schoolchildren were told to duck and cover and hope for the best, seem somewhat preposterous compared to black-and-white footage of atomic bombs leveling a small town in a matter of seconds. Thankfully, gauging the effectiveness of this safety maneuver in reality never came to pass. The Red Threat may now be a distant memory, but the sentiment of preparing for the worst remains – in more ways than one.

According to the US Army Corps of Engineers, there are more than 10,000 Formerly Used Defense Sites in the US. Of these, “approximately 395 properties are missile sites of various vintages (Atlas, Nike, and Titan),” says Candice S. Walters, public affairs specialist for the USACE. “Those sites are located in 36 of the 50 states in the US.” When the properties were no longer needed, the US military sold them to private individuals or local governments, and some were then left dormant for years.

That is, until people like Edward Peden came around. Wary of a nuclear exchange, Peden bought his first bunker in 1985, a decommissioned Atlas-E site near Topeka, Kansas. Once he and his wife, Diana, moved in ten years later, they received so many requests about purchasing similar structures that they started 20th Century Castles. With about fifty sales under their belt, they have found their niche selling the reconstituted underground bunkers, which can go for a few hundred thousand to upwards of five million dollars.

“There is clearly a growing nervousness about the future in our society,” says Peden. “My inquiries have increased about these unique properties, and most clients are concerned about weather changes, natural disasters, solar activity, social breakdown, and the potential for growing violence.” In particular, ex-military personnel seem to have an interest in the retrofitted structures.

But they’re not the only ones. The California-based Vivos Group has purchased a collection of shelters across the US, which they are renovating and divvying up into a kind of “life-assurance” time-share program. At a cost between $10,000 and $50,000 per person, interested parties can secure themselves a place in an underground bunker, provided they are accepted by a thorough selection committee.

Never been hiking? Can’t load a gun? Don’t worry, they’re not necessarily choosing new members based on how well they can clean a rifle or skin a pig. The survival skills of typical applicants are “minimal, which is why they come to Vivos for a turnkey solution,” says Founder and CEO Robert Vicino. “However, many are military- and police-trained experts, along with doctors, surgeons, and other collective skills, to provide a well prepared shelter community.”

In the event of a catastrophe, each community has “a comprehensive set of rules, regulations, security protocols and bylaws, managed by a revolving management board and a shelter director,” says Vicino. “Virtually every contingency has been prepared for.” One shelter even offers a Vivos Wine Vault, priced per square foot, safe behind lock and key from the rest of the population. After all, if civilization did ever come to an end, a few bottles of wine would definitely be in order.  

By Editor Will Cade

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