Wednesday, May 5, 1999

Panel downsizes
Pawaa park site

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Pawaa residents will have to settle for a small park.

At issue is the so-called Pawaa superblock bounded by Kalakaua Avenue, and Young, Keeaumoku and South King streets.

Area residents have pushed for a park for years, and the addition of five condominium towers in recent years has heightened the call.

A community visioning team earlier recommended designating the area as well as the block mauka along South Beretania Street, be designated a park site.

Yesterday, the City Council's Planning Committee voted to reduce the scope of the park to the 1.5-acre former site of the Police Department's maintenance facility, about a fourth of the original plan. The action means businesses won't get evicted to make way for the park -- at least for now.

A number of residents testified in favor of the park. Alice Bender, a resident of the One Kalakaua Senior Living Community, noted that more than 900 residents live in three elderly housing projects near the proposed park. "Elderly people like to walk out of their small rooms," Bender said.

"I'm disappointed," said area Councilman Andy Mirikitani, who had pushed to designate the entire superblock as a park. "But a start is better than no start."

Mirikitani said he hopes to have other parcels added in the future.

Mirikitani's colleagues said they could not justify putting into limbo a number of old-time businesses, several of whom testified against the park designation.

Joseph Paikai of the Pawaa Businesses and Landowners Committee said a park designation "would place a cloud of uncertainty on our businesses and properties." Paikai said some businesses left the area earlier this decade when the state and city discussed the possibility of a park that would have included the Department of Agriculture building.

The state later pulled out of the talks. This month, state Agriculture Board Chairman James Nakatani wrote in a terse letter that his agency had no intention of leaving its headquarters.

Council members said they could not justify adding a park symbol for the entire block without a source for the $27 million that is estimated it would take to purchase the various parcels.

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