Wednesday, May 15, 2002

STAR-BULLETIN / MARCH 2000 The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is interested in building a new office/ commercial complex at the Ala Moana site of this former sewage-pumping station, a 102-year-old building that has sat empty since 1955.

OHA looks
at Kakaako site

It will hire a consultant to study
the old sewage plant on Ala Moana

By Pat Omandam

The 102-year-old sewage-pumping station on Ala Moana, which has sat empty since 1955, may soon have a suitor to spruce it up: the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.


OHA took the first steps toward building a new office/commercial complex on the Kakaako property yesterday after its Land Committee expressed interest in buying or leasing 3.2 acres in the Kakaako Redevelopment District.

The panel approved spending $75,000 to hire a consultant to do a feasibility study and a concept plan which OHA will present to the Hawaii Community Development Authority, the state agency that regulates Kakaako development.

The Kakaako plan must be approved by the OHA Budget and Finance Committee before it goes before the full board for a vote. OHA wants to submit a lease proposal to the authority's board in September.

"What we're proposing here is that if OHA is truly interested in building a home for OHA as well as maximizing an investment, then we're suggesting the best way of doing this is to hire a consultant to come up with a concept," said Clyde Namuo, OHA administrator.

The property OHA is interested in runs along the makai side of Ala Moana bordered by Ilalo and Keawe streets. The site is near where the new medical school and research center is being built by the University of Hawaii.

The agency, which serves those of Hawaiian ancestry, has been looking for a new headquarters since its 10-year lease at Pacific Park Plaza expired in February 2001. OHA's current rent is $612,000 a year, but in previous years it had paid close to $1 million annually in rent for its fifth- and 12th-floor spaces.

Ideally, OHA wants about 30,000 square feet of office space, a bigger board room for trustee meetings, and more parking.

About 18 months ago, OHA considered buying the historic downtown post office building, but the nine-member OHA board could not agree on a plan after some trustees objected to the cost of renovating the old federal building.

That option is not available today as the state Legislature earlier this month approved $33 million in the capital improvements project budget to buy that building. It hopes to lease or sell it to a developer with a buy-back provision.

Namuo said one idea for the proposed Kakaako property is a 10-story office tower with mixed-use zoning that will allow OHA to lease additional office and research space to the university and to Hawaiian-related agencies, such as the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and Alu Like Inc.

The plan could include renovating the old pumping station into a Hawaiian-themed restaurant. The blue-stone structure with an 80-foot-high tower was built in 1900 as the city's first waste-disposal facility. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

"The plan, ultimately, is to provide enough income to OHA so that our space becomes rent free because everyone else that is occupying the building will be covering the debt service," Namuo said. "I think that's the scheme we're looking at in terms of making things work."

Most recently, a restaurant/microbrewery and an open-air market were planned for the site, but that idea fell apart more than two years ago. Since the pumping station sits on ceded lands, the Hawaii Community Development Authority seeks a plan for the property that will generate revenue.

Yesterday, trustee Charles Ota said the property would be a prudent investment for OHA. He had pitched the idea to the board several months ago after seeing OHA staff work from desks in hallways because of a lack of office space.

"When you look at the broad picture, this is the only land available in central Oahu with additional waterfront property," Ota said.

Trustee Linda Dela Cruz abstained from voting on the plan yesterday. She wanted the measure deferred so OHA staff could do more research on the site and other possible office properties to avoid paying for a consultant.

"I hate to spend $75,000 for a consultant who's going to make a report and we're going to file it," Dela Cruz said.

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