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Friday, June 30, 2000

Navy hopes
to lure world-
class talent for
Ford Island

It plans to sell or lease excess
land on Oahu to fund
the big project

By Pat Omandam


The U.S. Navy hopes to hear from world-class developers in mid-September on how to get "the best and highest use" of Ford Island, a national historic landmark.

To fund improvements and lure developers, the Navy plans to sell or lease excess land at Iroquois Point/Puuloa, Waikele, the former Barbers Point Naval Air Station and about 75 acres on Ford Island, said Capt. Jennifer Mustain, commanding officer of the Navy Public Works Center at Pearl Harbor and head of Navy engineering projects for the region.

Mustain told lawmakers and others at the state Capitol yesterday that the Navy wants to improve the island for sailors by adding new military housing and expanding operational and support services.

It will also offer developers a lease for 75 acres at Ford Island for potential commercial activity that could also help pay for the island's development, she said.

The $500 million project, made possible by special federal legislation, is scheduled during a 12-to-15-year period, with construction to start as early as the fall of 2001. Mustain said it would take the Navy about 30 years to do the project itself.

The key, she said, will be the market value of these outlying properties and the 75 acres at Ford Island. A developer could trade off the cost of the Ford Island improvements for the rights or leases to these lands. But any use of those lands would have to comply with city zoning codes.

Mustain said without those properties to leverage, the Navy has no money to improve Ford Island. And the amount of money it receives from them will set the pace of the development.

"Now, if somebody comes up with a whiz-bang idea that generates lots and lots of profit, then we'd have lots of money to do lots of things ... so build out would be shorter," she said.

Past talks about the island's use include conceptual plans for a "Navy Square" using the USS Missouri and the USS Arizona Memorial as visitor attractions. Any commercial development would probably have to integrate those battleships into the plan, the Navy says.

A draft programmatic environmental impact statement for Ford Island is expected to be done in January, with a final draft completed in July 2001. That will allow the Navy to propose a range of alternatives for environmental review without a commitment to any one plan.

Once the Navy signs off on the project, a master developer will be chosen. The developer's plan has to be submitted to Congress.

State Sen. Cal Kawamoto (D, Waipahu) questioned the amount of commitment the Navy has to use Hawaii-based businesses for the project. Navy engineer Stanford Yuen said the Navy will comply with all federal laws but it is sensitive to using local businesses.

Ford Island is named after Dr. Seth Porter Ford, a physician who owned the island in the mid-1800s. The U.S. acquired the island in several parcels between 1906 and 1918, and it was shared by the Army and the Navy. In the 1930s, the Navy took control of the island, which gained historic significance when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The attack focused on the Navy ships moored around the island and on its hangars and airfields.

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