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Monday, February 5, 2001

Fort Street Mall
seen as vital part of
downtown renaissance

By Harold Morse

Fort Street Mall could become a mix of sidewalk cafes, restaurants and outdoor music, if the city will modify its mall status, says Christina Kemmer, an official with Communications-Pacific.

This would be a recipe for "more active synergy," as more mall cafes would mean more people and could provide an economic upturn, Kemmer said.

"Once removed from being designated as a park it becomes mixed use-commercial," she said.

This could be part of a downtown renaissance in culture and the arts starting at the Hawaii Theatre, Kemmer said.

Kemmer, the public relations firm's senior vice president for civic affairs and community building, told the Downtown Neighborhood Board recently that the initial push is to bring more culture and arts to the Bethel Street area.

"We're focusing on Nuuanu and Bethel between Beretania and Nimitz," she said.

The idea is to work out from the nucleus of the restored Hawaii Theatre to make downtown a cultural mecca, she said.

"Eventually we'll have Smith Street because we do have some galleries there."

An advisory board and a funding board are hard at work, Kemmer said, and $250,000 in grants is sought to get the plan off the ground.

Grants for the arts and other improvements may come later, she said.

The undertaking is a not-for-profit private initiative that will work in partnership with the city and state, she said.

The city already has made some improvements in infrastructure such as new street lights.

"We want to get a culture, arts, education and entertainment district going."

Affected landowners of properties that straddle Bethel Street and Fort Street Mall eventually could create an improvement district in which they would tax themselves to bring tasteful improvements, she said.

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