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Texas investors build bunker homes for doomsday scenario

Associated Press Associated Press 11/11/2016 By DAVID WARREN, Associated Press

DALLAS — A Texas investor group is planning for a doomsday scenario by building a $300 million luxury community replete with underground homes and air-lock blast doors designed for people worried about a dirty bomb or other disaster.

The Trident Lakes community has begun with a flourish northeast of Dallas near the Oklahoma border: A statue of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, holding a golden trident will stand some 50 feet above a massive fountain billed as one of the largest in the world.

Subtlety won't do for Texas.

"The initial perception is that it's defined as a doomsday scenario," said James O'Connor, CEO of Dallas-based Vintuary Holdings, which represents the collection of investors backing the project. "I'm trying to change the perception to a long-term sustainable community, with the concept of a 200-year community. We're not looking at just putting all our residents underground; we're looking to put together a beautiful place to live that's also secure."

The standard luxury amenities will apply: 18-hole golf course, high-end spa, gun ranges, zip lines, shops and restaurants, and not just a single helipad but a row of them. But plans call for the 700-acre spread to also include an equestrian center, polo fields and 20-acre lakes with white-sand beaches. The entire compound will be wrapped by a 12-foot wall and have private security manning watchtowers. The project has received the necessary approvals, O'Connor said, and people are expected to take up residence in 2018.

Developers intend to construct about 400 condos that have 90 percent of their living space underground. Most would cost in the mid-six figures and each topped with a terrace overlooking one of the lakes. The community could have as many as 1,600 residents who, should disaster strike, can rely on water and energy production that's off the grid. O'Connor said designs and concepts may change as the project progresses, but a navigable tunnel network and an air-purification system are planned.

As is a DNA vault. The vault is an opportunity for "family sustainability," said Richie Whitt, spokesman for Trident Lakes.

"You can take DNA and preserve it, where if something should happen, then technology down the road could take DNA and replicate a person," he said. "It's kind of science fictiony but it's also not that far in the future."

Whitt said Friday that Vintuary Holdings has purchased land in Ohio for a similar community and investors hope to expand the idea to other states. He didn't provide further details.

It's not clear just how many similar bunker communities are open for business in the U.S. or other countries. The Vivos Group, based in California, has six in the U.S. and one in Germany.

"It's definitely something, anecdotally, that we're seeing more and more of," said Jeff Schlegelmilch, deputy director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University in New York.

The center works with an array of companies, groups, states and other entities to ensure a broad, comprehensive response when a natural or man-made disaster strikes. The concern for Schlegelmilch is that groups like Trident Lakes cut themselves off from that shared response.

"The aggregate of individual preparedness translates into greater community preparedness, and the aggregate of community preparedness leads to greater national preparedness," he said.

But Whitt says Trident Lakes is pursuing a sustainable community that by definition means people must rely on one another. He says residents are wanted with a varied skill set so that in the aftermath of a disaster everyone can contribute with the recovery.

O'Connor adds that Trident will offer more than protection from doomsday fallout. Well known celebrities and professional athletes have expressed an interest because of the privacy and security it will offer, he said.

"We think we have defined an untapped market," he said.

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