COLUMBUS, Ohio — A newly listed Hilliard, Ohio-area property adds new depth to the phrase “private getaway.”
This getaway sits 30 feet underground, encased in two feet of metal-clad concrete, guarded by gamma-ray detectors and accessible through 3,000-pound “blast” doors.
And, at 5,000 square feet, this getaway is twice the size of most homes.
Built in 1971, the underground bunker is one of an estimated 90 to 100 shelters constructed across the country by AT&T with the help of the U.S. Army. The bunkers were a Cold War creation, designed to protect the nation’s communication system in the event of a nuclear attack.
The one on Hayden Run Road in Washington Township includes a room full of decommissioned telecom gear, a floor-to-ceiling water tank, a full bath and shower, a 1970s-era smoking room, and a 200-kilowatt generator that needs some oil, said the property’s owner, William Martin.
Several weeks ago, Martin suggested that Megan Lau, a new Century 21 agent who hadn’t yet sold a property, list his. The price tag: $1.25 million.
“When he said his property had a bomb shelter, I thought, ‘OK, maybe he’s a doomsday prepper,'” said Lau, who listed the 9-acre property in October. “I had no idea it was actually built by the Army and AT&T. I was in shock, honestly, as he kept telling me all about it. Now I think, this is a really cool property, a really unique property.”
The bunker is accessed through a small brick building. A smaller one sits nearby for emergency access. Visitors can descend stairs or take a lift to the floor of the bunker, 30 feet below.
Martin uses the bunker for storage, but employed it more during the pandemic while the rest of the world shut down.
“I’ve had guys down here to play some cards and have some beers,” he said.
AT&T owned the property until 1995, when Steve Cordle, president of now-defunct Cord Camera, bought it. The property changed hands several times since before landing with Martin, a former Cord employee who now runs the disaster-cleanup company ServiceMaster from the site.
In addition to the underground shelter and the two small brick access buildings, the property includes a 2,700-square-foot building that houses ServiceMaster’s office and garage.
Martin said he had big plans for the site when he bought it in 2015, but now doesn’t need so much property.
He’s tried to sell it twice, in 2018-19 and last year. This time, he upped the asking price to $1.25 million because he thinks the market is stronger.
Lau said it wasn’t an easy property to price.
“When I was doing comps, there was nothing there,” she said. “There weren’t exactly any bomb shelters in Hilliard.”
Martin said he got plenty of lookers from the previous listings, including prospects who thought the bunker could be turned into a shooting range, a kennel and dog training center, an event space, a speakeasy or a gym for a condominium community above.
The property, now zoned rural residential, is served by a well and septic field. A more intensive use would require connecting to nearby sewer and water, a cost Martin estimates at $250,000 to $300,000.
Similar shelters occasionally pop up for sale. One in Florida sold in 2014 after being listed as “the ultimate man cave” for $499,999. A Kansas version was listed this year on eBay for $695,000.
The closest one Martin is aware of, in nearby Mount Vernon, was listed a few years ago on Survival Realty for $800,000.
Martin asked the Mount Vernon owner what he used his bunker for.
“Nothing,” Martin joked. “Maybe that’s what these things are best for.”