From the NYT:
The National Park Service put out an unusual for-rent sign last month: 35 historic buildings, including the genteel quarters of lieutenants and captains, at a wind-swept former Army base overlooking Sandy Hook Bay. The only catch: the structures are serious fixer-uppers.
The one-time military base, Fort Hancock, sits at the northern end of Sandy Hook, N.J., a peninsula that is part of the park service’s Gateway National Recreation Area and is better known for its miles of ocean beaches.
But when the federal government took over Sandy Hook in the early 1970s, it inherited dozens of yellow-brick buildings — not just officers’ homes, but also mess halls, barracks, a post office, a commissary and even an old stable for mules — that have mostly sat vacant and have slowly deteriorated.
In the past, proposals for what to do with the buildings varied with the tides, but the park service is now actively looking for tenants to invest in them and save them. During a tour of the properties on Friday, a wooden porch outside a former lieutenant’s home, built in 1899, listed perilously and, inside, chunks of ceiling plaster carpeted the floors.
“This is our last shot at keeping these buildings,” Pete McCarthy, coordinator of the park service’s Sandy Hook unit, said. “We’ve stabilized them as best we can, but if we don’t do something soon we’ll lose them.”
Under the park service’s plan, instead of paying a set rent, tenants would pay for repairs to the buildings and be given long-term use of them in exchange. The repairs generally include new electrical and heating systems; in many cases, tenants would have to fix or replace roofs, windows and porches as well.
Depending on the repair cost, a tenant who commits to footing the renovation bill might not have to pay rent for decades, park service officials said.
While several nonprofit groups currently occupy some buildings at Fort Hancock, the recent “request for expressions of interest” that the park service issued extends the invitation to government agencies, companies and even private citizens. A person could sign up to a 60-year lease and, in effect, have a waterfront home inside a national park.