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Naval Air Station Barbers Point: How Did it Become a Gho...

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

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

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.

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 Kapolei Regional Park and the James Campbell Building

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 Fire Station in Kalaeloa A Vacant Building 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.

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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 imp...

  • Jeanine

    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 . . .

    • Sunny Menozzi Peterson

      Thanks for sharing your insights, Jeanine!

  • Jack M. Eades

    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.

  • Sunny Menozzi

    Thank you for your comment Jack. I completely agree.

  • ronald boothe

    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

    • Sunny Menozzi Peterson

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Ronald!

  • David Mahaffey

    I served there in 1960-63,with AEWBARRONPAC. Was married there,in 1962,lived in base housing,on Forrestal. We deployed to Midway island for our barrier operations. You could not have asked for a better tour of duty.

    • Sunny Menozzi Peterson

      David, it’s great to hear of your fond memories of Barbers Point! It’s frustrating to see a beloved place so poorly taken care of.

  • Dave Randall Jr.

    I was stationed at Barbers Point,1962 and 1963.
    I was assigned to the air terminal.
    I have fond memories of the friends I made and my time spent there.

    • Sunny Menozzi Peterson

      Thank you for sharing this, Dave. It’s great to hear the stories of all those once stationed there!

  • Greg Kling

    I was stationed at NAS Barbers Pt from ’93-’97. Loved it. Very close-knit community. The base was well cared for. I was a YN2 at NAS Admin for CAPT Rocklein, then CAPT Waller. Loved my time at NAS. And, yes, in post closure years, the base fell into an embarrassing mess…there is sooo much they could do with the land, and I haven’t studied the particulars, but these things usually come down to power / political struggles. I only hope that they figure things out eventually…it would be nice to see the area thrive again.

    • Sunny Menozzi Peterson

      Thanks for commenting, Greg. I couldn’t agree more.

  • JimBro

    I was in VW-14 in 1956 as an airborne electronics tech. When I made 2nd Class I was transferred to Guam! From heaven to hell as a reward for a promotion. It didn’t seem fair.

    • Sunny Menozzi Peterson

      Oh man, thanks for sharing JimBro. I hope your time in Guam wasn’t too bad!

  • Peter Dvergsten

    I was at BP in 1958-1959. I was TAD from AIRBARSRON-2 to the base post office. It was like a two year vacation. I drove our mail truck to Pearl almost every day for about a year. One day I had a load of mail for a carrier tied up at Ford Island. On the ferry out we went past the Arizona. I haven’t been the same since.

    • Sunny Menozzi Peterson

      Thanks for sharing, Peter. Pearl Harbor is striking, and its waters are hallowed.

  • Wayne Ellis

    Was stationed there in late 60’s for three years and 5 months. Detailed to Air Operations; my last two years, assisting with In Bound and Out Bound military aircraft coming out/to Viet Nam and Gulf of Tonkin.
    Then to new command and into the Gulf of Tonkin, glad I had years in Hawaii, as the weather in Nam, didn’t hardly bother me, as it did the guys coming from stateside. Many fond memories mostly, and lived in base housing in the two story cinder block complex units.

    • Sunny Menozzi Peterson

      Thanks for sharing, Wayne. It’s important to have a public record of stories and memories like yours!

  • tom lizzie

    was stationed there from 1964 to 1966. i was with COMFAIRHAWAII in admin. it was one of the best times of my life. the base was really a great place to be. the people were fun to be around and the base itself was beautiful. it was really shocking to see what has happened to it. most of what i saw was in disrepair and overgrown. someone has really let a fine base go to pot after it was closed. let’s hope some one will bring the property back to the glory it was.

    • Sunny Menozzi Peterson

      Thanks for commenting, Tom. I agree. The way the base closure and redevelopment has been managed (or not) is reprehensible.

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