After years, plans for old Navy station on Oahu taking shape
by Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer
It's taken eight drafts and more than four years, but the state is close to finalizing zoning and infrastructure plans that will stimulate and shape redevelopment of the former Barbers Point Naval Air Station at Kalaeloa.
The sprawling 3,700-acre base was closed by the military in 1999 and largely turned over to the state. Plans in place since 2005 have envisioned up to 6,350 homes and 3 million square feet of commercial space.
But a major challenge has been how to arrange and accommodate such development given that the Navy's old electrical, water, sewer and road systems require colossal upgrades.
The continued presence of a general-aviation airport and a Coast Guard station at the former base, as well as the possibility that the city might extend its planned rail transit line to Kalaeloa, further complicates planning.
One thing that seems certain is the old base between Kapolei and 'Ewa Beach won't be transformed into anything resembling other O'ahu communities.
"The characteristics of this district will be unique," said Anthony Ching, executive director of the Hawai'i Community Development Authority, the state agency devising the area's development rules. "It will not look like Kapolei."
The latest draft of administrative rules directing development proposes five zoning categories. One zone is open space that includes a shoreline with as much white-sand beach as Waikīkī.
Another zone is devoted largely to recreational, cultural and energy production uses. This zone would allow for what Ching said could be five or more solar farms, including two on land owned by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, two on HCDA land and one on private property.
Urban development would be confined to three other zones with different density limits for mixed residential and commercial use.
The HCDA calls the proposed urban zoning "form-based" because it coordinates development by building heights and the amount of housing units and commercial space — not by the type of use.
"We have great hopes for the form-based rule," Ching said.
As proposed, the highest-density urban zoning would allow up to 60,000 square feet of commercial space or 60 residential units per acre in buildings up to five stories. Mid-density urban zoning would be limited to four-story buildings with up to 40,000 square feet of commercial space or 40 residential units per acre. The low-density zone would permit buildings no taller than three stories with up to 20,000 square feet of commercial space or 20 residential units per acre.
The latest draft of administrative rules follows a March summit attended by 80 individuals, including representatives of private landowners and government agencies.
The proposed rules will be discussed with landowners and other stakeholders next month, and then scheduled for a public hearing in June.
Tweaking the plan is expected based on feedback. After that, a final plan could be sent to Gov. Linda Lingle for approval in August.
If the timetable is realized, it would give landowners and developers certainty on how they may use parcels for redevelopment more than a decade after the Navy ceased operations as part of a federal base realignment decision.
Firm development rules would spur more wholesale development at the old base that is regarded by some as one of the worst examples of reusing a shuttered military installation.
While there has been some piecemeal development at Kalaeloa over the years that has included industrial businesses and plans for a new FBI headquarters, former bases on the Mainland have blossomed with hotels, shopping centers, homes, offices, universities and parks.
"We've been kicking the can down the road and nothing much has happened in the last 10 years," Ching said. "I do think we're now poised to do something here."
Detailed zoning rules were slow in the making largely because of challenges in determining how much new infrastructure would be needed to handle certain levels of development.
Much of the work over the past two years involved figuring out how to supply the area with upgraded power. A proposed power line layout has the endorsement from Hawaiian Electric Co., Ching said.
The HCDA estimates it will cost $550 million to improve roads, electricity, sewer and water systems to modern standards throughout the old base. Private landowners are expected to pick up the cost for most of the work, though the state anticipates being responsible for close to $200 million of infrastructure.
Previously, the HCDA had anticipated playing a larger role in developing Kalaeloa as a landowner, but the Navy last year conveyed 500 acres of land that was in limbo to private firm Ford Island Development.
Overall, redevelopment of Kalaeloa is expected to occur over 20 or more years.