When Tyler Allen agreed to fork over $3 million in cash for a luxury condominium near Concordia, Kan., he wasn’t attracted by the indoor swimming pool, 17-seat movie theater, or hydroponic vegetable garden.
The real selling point of the 1,820-square-foot apartment: It will be buried 174 feet underground in a decommissioned missile silo sturdy enough to withstand a nuclear attack.
Mr. Allen, a 45-year-old Orlando, Fla., sports bar and nightclub owner, insists he isn’t a “tinfoil hat-wearing” type preparing for the end of the world.
Rather, he cites growing security threats—such as a global health pandemic, cataclysmic weather and terror attacks.
“There’s a Camp David for the president,” he says. “If you’re at a certain level where you can afford it, you can get that, too.”
The so-called Survival Condo complex boasts full and half-floor units that cost $1.5 million to $3 million each. The building can accommodate up to 75 people, and buyers include doctors, scientists and entrepreneurs, says developer Larry Hall.
Mr. Hall, who lives in a Denver suburb, bought his first missile-silo site in Kansas in 2008 and completed construction in December 2012. A year later, he says, the development had sold out. Work on the second security compound—the one where Mr. Allen bought a unit—is under way, and Mr. Hall says he is considering additional sites in Texas and elsewhere.
As former nuclear missile sites built under the supervision of the Army Corps of Engineers, the structures were originally designed to withstand a direct hit by a nuclear bomb. At ground level, they can be sealed up by two armored doors weighing 16,000 pounds each. Mr. Hall added sophisticated water and air-treatment facilities, state-of-the-art computer network technology and several alternate power generation capabilities.
The projects tap into an undercurrent of angst among some affluent folks that has persisted since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. The global financial crisis and now the possible dangers posed by the Ebola virus and the rise of Islamic State have fueled their safety concerns.
The condos, his company claims, can make it possible to lead an uninterrupted life of luxury underground. In addition to the standard perks—which also include a spa, dog park, fitness center and medical facilities—the complex has enough emergency food on hand to last for up to five years. There’s also a holding cell for unruly occupants.
Individual units have 9-foot ceilings. Lighting mimics sunlight as much as possible. In place of windows, there are video screens that can exhibit a resident’s choice of scenery, from landscapes to urban skylines.
Unlike Mr. Allen, most of the owners don’t want to go on the record about their involvement.
One executive of a Connecticut tobacco-product firm says he paid $12 million in cash for four entire floors of the first silo-condo complex—enough space to accommodate his large family and several friends. He hired a decorator and equipped his four full floors with fireplaces, antique furniture and more “windows” than the space originally offered.
“I look at is as a life insurance policy,” he says, adding that he plans to use the uber-bunker only in a dire emergency. He says his wife, however, “hates the idea” and refuses to set foot in the place—“for now.”
Spending on residential security rose from $7 billion in 2001 to $12 billion in 2011, and is projected to climb above $16 billion in 2016, according to Freedonia Group, a market-research firm based in Cleveland. That covers everything from routine security devices to the kind of reinforced chambers that gained widespread attention more than a decade ago and were featured in the 2002 film “Panic Room.”
One finance type, who declined to be named, transformed a 350-odd-square-foot closet in his family’s Manhattan cooperative into a retreat in case of a home invasion or other emergency.
An armored door to the room can allegedly withstand rifle fire, and the suite is equipped with its own power source and air-scrubbing equipment that could sustain occupants for up to 72 hours. It is stocked with food, purified water, a portable gas range, first aid supplies and games. The cost: close to $100,000, according to Insite Security, the New York firm that supervised the project.
The silo projects, meanwhile, take the safe-room concept to another level. Mr. Hall says the facilities will provide armored transportation if owners get to the local airport or anywhere within 400 miles of the silo. An armed guard protects the entrance to the completed complex around the clock.
Some condo owners aren’t waiting for Armageddon to try out—and enjoy—their survival digs.
Mr. Hall and his family spent the summer in theirs and returned for a brief stay in October. Lori Hall, his wife, admits the whole concept takes a little getting used to. “At first it was a little taboo to talk about, and people did think we were kind of crazy,” she allows.
Amy Sprague, a neighbor of Mr. Hall and a friend of his wife, admits she was “flabbergasted” a year ago when she first heard details about the project. “It sounded scary, dark and cold like a hole in the ground,” she recalls. “I was very confused by it. Dumbfounded.”
She and her family did, however, accept an invitation to visit one night earlier this year. That afternoon and evening, the families made s’mores outside the silo over a campfire and the children hunted for fossils and other treasures in the surrounding fields.
“It was a lot larger than I expected,” says Ms. Sprague. “My kids thought it was better than Disney.”
Write to Liz Moyer at firstname.lastname@example.org