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

The following post comes courtesy of Global Site Plans' The Grid. CNU and Global Site Plans recently teamed up to syndicate Grid content, as its contingent of writers presents a view on the opportunities and issues of urbanization all across the world. CNU will carry select posts from the Grid direct on the CNU Salons.


 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?

To read the original post, written by Sunny Menozzi, visit Global Site Plans.


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