It's got dozens of luxurious homes worth $300,000 to $2.5 million, all with sunrise-on-the-water views, high ceilings and hardwood floors.

There's a world-class fitness center with a recent $11 million face-lift.

And don't forget the gazebo and the marina.

No wonder Hampton Mayor Ross A. Kearney II has real estate developers begging him for a shot at Fort Monroe.

"It's one of the most prime pieces of property in the Hampton Roads area," says Dan Hassett, regional vice president of Virtexco Inc., a construction company that spent several years and $25 million fixing up the base's housing. "You've got water views all around."

You've also got an estimated 1,300 places in the 570-acre site where buried explosives might have to be removed.

Not to mention National Historic Landmark status, putting it among the crown jewels of historic and architectural sites in the nation.

That's the conundrum of Fort Monroe, now that it's officially on the Pentagon's base closure list.

If the Army marches away, Monroe has all the earmarks of the next upscale mix of expensive housing and more expensive office space, a place that could bring in the bucks that would erase the memory and effects of the 3,500 paychecks the military wants to move elsewhere.

But Fort Monroe also has those two big strings attached - historic and environmental - that might severely restrict what can be done there.

For now, Kearney and other Hampton officials say they don't want to talk much about what benefits might result from the closure. Officially, the focus is on saving the base, not selling it.

But those same politicians can't help but allude to the possibilities.

"I hope it remains Fort Monroe," Kearney says. "Yet we are prepared to move forward."

In the past few months, he says, several developers have brought the city proposals for turning the property into a tax-producing casserole of residential, office and commercial spaces.

If it comes to that, Kearney says, the quality of the proposals and the people involved show that "it's not going to be helter-skelter, with Motel 8s and things like that."

Kearney even has visions of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat by luring developers to build high-rise office buildings designed for federal workers.

Under this vision, some of the 22,000 men and women who must leave leased offices in Northern Virginia because those buildings are not sufficiently protected from terrorists would come to Hampton.

The reason they have to leave the offices is that new rules for protecting Department of Defense workplaces call for physical barriers to thwart car bombers, including an 82-foot buffer around each building.

Kearney notes that there's a bigger buffer than that at Fort Monroe, plus a moat and a secure checkpoint that already meets military security regulations.