Tuesday, August 3, 1999

City plans new
King Street sidewalks
in Chinatown

The $4.06 million project will
widen and improve the sidewalks
along King Street

By Harold Morse


The North King Street sidewalks of Chinatown are dangerous: They slope, could cause people to trip and don't meet standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act, says a city design official.

Art The city says it hopes to remedy that by making the sidewalks wider, better lit and better constructed.

Roland Libby, city deputy director of Design and Construction, said work on the six-month project, which will cost $4.06 million, will begin soon to make King Street more pedestrian-friendly between River and Bethel streets.

Bob Gerell, chairman of the Mayor's Downtown Chinatown Task Force, said: "We think it's going to be great ... Maybe it will change some people's negative impressions about the area."

The project will narrow King Street by three feet; install 18-inch wider sidewalks of rough-textured granite blocks on each side; plant about eight trees on each side in each of the five blocks and put in new street lights and handicap ramps.

About 10 businesses would have to cut back awnings two feet farther from the street to allow newly-planted fiddlewood trees, similar to those now on Hotel Street, to get rain and sunlight, also to make room for new streetlights to provide brighter lighting.

"We call that anti-crime lighting, and this will make the sidewalks brighter and thereby reduce illicit activities," Libby said. "The streetlights are the primary reasons that the awnings need to be trimmed back."

Among the handful of people who attended a recent forum, Charles Black, founding president of Historic Hawaii Foundation, and David Scott, foundation executive director, were concerned the project might change the historic character of Chinatown.

Scott said Chinatown merchants already are operating on a thin profit margin and the project might mean less income. Black questioned the wisdom of narrowing King Street when it's already congested.

City officials said narrowing the street won't affect traffic.

E-mail to City Desk

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