"It'll Never Get Off the Ground"

With nothing to show after four years but bitterness and bickering, the plan to turn Homestead Air Force Base into a commercial airport has gone from national model to national embarrassment

In Fort Ord, California, officials could not resolve the environmental and political pressure against turning the base, located in the hills of the Monterey Peninsula, into a commercial development. The military has given most of the site to the University of California to turn into a campus. In Charleston, South Carolina, infighting has delayed a plan to transform a naval facility into a commercial port. And a naval air base in Alameda, California, was supposed to become a housing-and-commercial development, but those plans have also faltered.

"Homestead was really looked at as the prime example of how to get it done right, how to move through the process, how to get everything ready," comments Alan Rubin, a base-conversion specialist who developed the initial reuse plan in 1993 and later became a consultant to HABDI. "Now when the deputy secretaries take their dog-and-pony shows around to various communities and try to tell them, 'We are here to help you', officials from these communities come back and say, 'Oh, yeah? Well, what happened in Homestead? You were here to help them, too. They did everything right, they got a developer, and now it's blowing up.'"

Rubin recalls how, in the early going, he became something of a featured attraction at meetings of the National Association of Installation Developers, an organization of military base redevelopers. At their conferences, people would approach him to discuss the great things happening in Homestead. "In the beginning I was one of the spokespeople who went around with [the association] as a success story. Now that's stopped," Rubin muses. "I don't do that any more.

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