February 27 2013

Naval Air Station Barbers Point: How Did it Become a Ghost Town?

In 1993, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) announced the closure of Naval Air Station Barbers Point, located on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Formally closed in 1999, Barbers Point became the Kalaeloa Community Development District. In 2002, the State Legislature appointed the Hawaiian Community Development Authority (HCDA), an agency that works to revitalize areas in need of timely redevelopment, to oversee Kalaeloa’s development.

Barbers Point: A Hub for Naval Aviation in the Pacific from 1942 until 1999

Naval Air Station Barbers Point

Kalaeloa is adjacent to Kapolei. Since the closure of Barbers Point, the James Campbell Company has begun to develop the City of Kapolei. The 1977 Oahu General Plan imagined a second urban center in West Oahu, but the region retained its rural character until quite recently. In 2007, the James Campbell Company succeeded the Estate of James Campbell, a 107 year-old private trust. The Estate owned the land upon which Kapolei sits. The planning, design, and development of Kapolei is the firm’s first real estate development project.

The James Campbell Company put forth a well-defined vision for Kapolei, imagining a “Hawaiian Garden City.” To create this Shangri-la, landscape architecture underpins Kapolei’s urban design plan. In the years since the plan was published, Kapolei, though not yet a city, has become a vibrant community characterized by its extensive greenery, distinctly Hawaiian architecture, and gently curving thoroughfares.

Kapolei Regional Park and the James Campbell Building

Kapolei Regional Park

In contrast, Kalaeloa remains underdeveloped and blighted. The HCDA’s “Kalealoa Master Plan,” published in 2006, called for Kalaeloa to become a “Center for Excellence.” Excellence in what? The HCDA’s plan fails to answer that question. Further complicating Kalaeloa’s redevelopment, the federal, state, and city and county government of Honolulu retain a significant portion of Kalaeloa’s acreage. In 2006, private interests owned only 6 percent of the allocated land.

Kapolei and Kalaeloa present a stark contrast. While private investment has created a thriving community in Kapolei, Kalaeloa languishes under the HCDA. Its vacant buildings, untended grounds, and faded streets signs are an insult to the legacy of the sailors who served at Barbers Point. The James Campbell Company puts the HCDA to shame.

A Vacant Building in Kalaeloa

A Vacant Fire Station in Kalaeloa

Is good planning, design, and development propelled by the private or the public sector where you live? What role do public-private partnerships play?

Credits: Images by Sunny Menozzi. Data linked to sources.

Sunny Menozzi

Sunny Menozzi's military duties have taken her to diverse and exciting places, from Singapore to Arizona, South Korea to Afghanistan, and North Carolina to Hawaii. Sunny's travels inspired her interest in cities, especially how they function, the impact of the built environment on the residents, the methods planners employ to shape natural features, and the vibrancy that can be cultivated by good planning and design. She will begin her pursuit of a master's degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall of 2013. Sunny plans to focus on reuse and historic preservation, community-building, and economic and environmental sustainability. She hopes to contribute to projects that repurpose military bases. An avid runner, Sunny is interested in the design of recreational trails and policies that encourage the development of walkable communities. She holds a B.S. in International Relations and Russian from the United States Military Academy at West Point.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 at 9:35 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Landscape Architecture, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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4 Responses to “Naval Air Station Barbers Point: How Did it Become a Ghost Town?”

  1. Jeanine Says:

    In 1995, I moved into my husband’s home in Makakilo after we got married. Kalaeloa was known as Barbers Point back then and was controlled by the military. I remember a guard at the gate, shopping at the Commissary, swimming in the pool, and taking advantage of the military privileges there since my husband was in the Navy Reserves. Barbers Pt. was a safe, clean place. Even then, however, it was a dry and brown place due to its location on the dry Leeward coast. After the base closed, I had high hopes for the planned development of the land. I’m still waiting . . . Now that there is no guard at the gate, and no military to maintain the land, Kalaeloa (as it is now called) has fallen into disrepair. I am not sure of the reasons why but suspect it is due to lack of funding from the govt. and because no one is really in charge of the entire place–bits and pieces are used by various entities. But then I could be wrong–it seems like Kalaeloa has been forgotten. By the way, Kapolei is green and well-planned. However, I am glad I moved out of the “Second City”–the traffic is horrendous, the schools are overcrowded, and the homes lack character. Even in the “planned” development of Kapolei, things didn’t all go as planned . . .

  2. Jack M. Eades Says:

    The state that Kalaeloa has been allowed to become is a shame, a disgrace, and a total waste of money. I currently reside on Kalaeloa and find that I cannot even walk along the street (Yorktown St.) due to the grass having grown over the sidewalk. There is so much potential here and the longer buildings remain vacant, the more they will deteriorate. Someone needs to be taken to task, get up, and start making something happen on this beautiful piece of land. Stop the shame and disgust and turn it into productive land.

  3. Sunny Menozzi Says:

    Thank you for your comment Jack. I completely agree.

  4. ronald boothe Says:

    I was in the Navy at Barbers Point from 1951 to 1953. I was a photographer in the photo lab located on the first floor of the controltower bldg. Yes it is sad to find out this big navy base is now gone. I cannot seem to locate any of the other 45 or so photo mates from that period of time. Thanks for your article

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