Servco Pacific is said to be planning a big auto lot on land in Kalaeloa

William Cole, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
·5 min read

Apr. 8—Servco Pacific Inc., which says it is Hawaii's largest private company and one of the top 15 largest automobile dealer groups based in the United States, is planning to lease acreage at the former Naval Air Station Barbers Point for what could eventually be a huge auto lot, according to officials and business owners there.

The proposed development along Roosevelt Avenue in the vicinity of Corregidor Street and Coral Sea Road in what is now known as Kalaeloa follows Servco's sale of 14.4 acres last year to online mega-­retailer Amazon for a reported $125 million.

The sprawling Kalaeloa lot would be a major redevelopment piece on the former Navy base that was shuttered in 1999 and where outdated utilities and a complex patchwork of land transfers—which are still ongoing—have hampered reuse.

Some current tenants on the property—most of whom did not want to be identified—say they were previously briefed by Servco representatives on a plan that could reach up to 90 acres.

The land parcel where Servco reportedly wants to build includes historic World War II Quonset huts and warehouses, and juts into the former Marine Corps Air Station Ewa, a Dec. 7, 1941, battlefield that's now on the National Register of Historic Places. The proximity has some concerned about maintaining historic integrity.

Developer Hunt Companies, which obtained about 540 acres from the Navy in Kalaeloa, is rapidly moving small businesses out for the Servco effort even as some local government officials said they were unaware of the big plan. A large construction trailer for site work already has been moved onto the property.

Multiple versions of the Servco development plan were described in what is expected to be a phased approach.

"As you know, Amazon purchased our property located at 2101 Auiki St. last year, " Servco said in a statement to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. "Since then, we've been in the process of relocating our operations to temporary locations as we assess our long term plans. We are in discussions with Hunt to lease two existing buildings and an open area on a temporary basis to supplement our existing operations in Kapolei."

Servco added that the move "is temporary as we create a long-term plan for our business and facilities. However, Kalaeloa is one of the areas we're considering for a possible long-term solution."

On its LinkedIn page, Servco Pacific says it was founded in 1919 as a two-car repair garage on the North Shore. It now owns Toyota, Lexus and Subaru distributorships in Hawaii and a network of over 30 retail dealerships in Australia and Hawaii.

"For over 100 years, we've strived to be the best neighbor and community supporter wherever we have the privilege to do business, " it said in the statement. "As we create our long-term plan, we will follow all formal planning processes set out by the city and state."

The move, meanwhile, is displacing dozens of trucking, heavy equipment, movie equipment rental and other small businesses from the Kalaeloa area on differing schedules.

"I have no choice. I wish I didn't have to move out, but we're small potatoes, " said Michael Kha, a boom lift rental owner who has operated since 2016 from one of five adjacent World War II Quonset huts. "Servco got plenty money." Kha said he was told he could stay until April of 2022.

Pape Machinery, which operated on Roosevelt Avenue, said it was told by Hunt it had to move out—something it didn't want to do—and relocated to Campbell Industrial Park in January.

Some businesses said Hunt wants them out by June—and is paying to relocate them elsewhere on the former base.

Pride Fields, which has four baseball diamonds at Roosevelt and Corregidor and where Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams played in 1945, then as a Marine Corps fighter pilot, also may be part of the deal.

"My understanding was Servco was going to buy that land, so they asked me if I could relocate my equipment that I kept in the storage at Pride, " said Jim Koishigawa, who voluntarily organized Cal Ripken and Babe Ruth youth baseball at Pride Fields. Before COVID-­19, 24 teams played there on Saturdays and another 24 on Sundays.

"Hunt took care of us "

in allowing the use of the fields for seven years, with the future still uncertain, he said.

Hunt said the long-time operator of youth baseball recently voluntarily terminated its management of the ballfields, resulting in their temporary closure.

The Texas-based developer said it couldn't comment on "prospective transactions." However, it did say : "We are currently working with our existing tenants on relocation plans, where and when warranted, and recognize that different tenants will need more time than others to find a suitable location in Kalaeloa."

Hunt obtained about 495 acres under lease and fee title terms at Kalaeloa as a result of 2003 special federal legislation under which it made $84 million in infrastructure improvements on Ford Island in exchange for a number of Navy lands around Oahu.

Servco development would occur in the vicinity of the 69-acre Parcel 17. Other land could be added to the plan.

Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii said as part of the agreement it is "obligated to convey fee title to Parcel 17, which includes the proposed Servco site, to Kalaeloa Ventures LLC, a subsidiary of Hunt Companies."

"There is no definitive timeline for conveyance as the Navy is required to complete certain environmental actions including addressing historic preservation prior to fee conveyance, " the command said.

Ross Stephenson, a former historian with the State Historic Preservation Division, said, "There has been no adequate historical archaeology done on any of this."

Ewa Field made history as a mooring mast field started in 1925, as a Dec. 7 battlefield where several Marines were killed, and as a base for aircraft sent to the Battle of Midway. The National Park Service placed 180 acres on the National Register of Historic Places.

Hunt said, "We have not been in any discussions regarding any development activities within the boundaries of the 180 acres outlined in the historic battle ­field designation approved in 2016."