Clifford Nakata’s personal story includes recognizable themes in the history of Colorado Springs: patriotism, migration, national defense, and growth.
After Pearl Harbor, teenaged Clifford, his twin sister and his parents were moved from their home town of Kingsburg, California to an internment camp in Gila, Arizona.
This experience led Clifford to affirm his loyalty to his nation, and strengthened his patriotism.
Subsequently drafted to take up arms in defense of the United States during the Korean Conflict, Clifford served with distinction. He told that he completed 77 missions behind enemy lines, and was the only member of his unit to have survived.
From growing up in California to being relocated to the internment camp in Arizona; from providing military service in the Korean Conflict to working as a NATO planner in Europe; then finally deciding to adopt Colorado Springs as his place of residence and professional practice, Clifford’s migration story is like that of many military service members choosing to settle in Colorado Springs and make it their home.
Clifford’s Nakata Planning Group was regarded as one of the premier professional military planning practices in the 1980’s and 1990’s, helping make Colorado Springs synonymous with planning for victory in national defense. He provided the first ever comprehensive survey of US Army bases in Europe for USAREUR, locating and mapping all the military communities and bases that were established after World War II and are still in use today. He guided his Planning Group’s development of comprehensive base master plans, mobilization plans and demobilization plans for US bases throughout Germany, England, Italy, Japan, and South Korea. He also developed plans for installations across the continental United States and Alaska, including the local ones of NORAD, Peterson Air Force Base and Fort Carson. By formulating plans to strengthen US military installations in important theatres of military engagement, Clifford’s efforts contributed to the United States’ victory of the Cold War.
Clifford was not only a significant planner in our nation’s history, but also a prolific architect. Responding to Colorado Springs’ growth, he completed numerous education buildings, among them the Centennial Campus of Pikes Peak Community College; and ones at Colorado College, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and the United States Air Force Academy. He completed a large number of school buildings for Academy School District 20 and Harrison School District 2. Among his signature civic buildings are the downtown Colorado Springs Jail, the Alamo Corporate Center and with his long-time friend and associate John James Wallace, the El Paso County building and Pikes Peak Center complex. His corporate projects included ones for Current Inc., Goodwill Industries, IBM and the corporate offices of GE Johnson and Nunn Construction companies. His health care work included projects for the Penrose-St. Francis hospital system. Of particular significance, with both his planning and architectural practices, he completed the Downtown Action Plan which has been instrumental in shaping the development of Downtown Colorado Springs.
Generously Submitted by Gregory Friesen, FAIA