Thursday, March 20, 2003

Kamehameha Schools sees Kakaako as a kind of urban neighborhood designed for pedestrians.

promoted as hub

Kamehameha Schools
sees the district as a
Honolulu gathering spot

By Russ Lynch

Kakaako should become the physical, social, educational and recreational "heart of Honolulu," Kamehameha Schools real estate chief Sanford Murata said yesterday.

A one-mile radius from the center of Kakaako takes in the entire downtown financial district, into the edges of Chinatown, the Ala Moana Center, mauka into the Kapiolani Boulevard business area and makai to the ocean, he told a luncheon meeting of the Hawaii chapter of the Institute of Real Estate Management.

"Waikiki is two miles away," he said.

Murata's vision calls for open space, streets that have a "definite bias" in favor of pedestrians and developments in small blocks.

"Super blocks really don't work," said Murata, who was one of the founding partners of real estate firm Graham Murata Russell, before joining Kamehameha Schools in 2001.

It will take 20-25 years to achieve the vision, Murata said, but steps are already under way. Kamehameha Schools owns 65 acres of land in Kakaako, some of it on each side of Ala Moana.

The education-based estate believes in bus rapid transit and is willing to give up about an acre of land running along the mauka side of Ala Moana so the street can be expanded to allow the bus system to run through the middle. The medial strip would become park-like, where people can pause while trying to cross the busy street, he said.

Ala Moana, now 100 feet wide, is "a very unfriendly street" and must be made more pedestrian-friendly, Murata said. It needs something along the middle that would be "more than an island, an oasis," he said.

The fact that Kakaako has been largely ignored for decades is good news, because developments that could not be undone have not happened, he said.

That makes the 700-acre Kakaako district a great place to create something for the future, he said.

Existing development is almost all low-rise, aside from the Waterfront Towers apartment complex.

"There is almost nothing there that we cannot improve," Murata said. "There really hasn't been anything built there that we can't take away."

The Kakaako district watched over by the Hawaii Community Development Authority is 700 acres, actually bigger than the 640 acres that make up Waikiki, he said.

Kamehameha Schools supports the overall HCDA plans for the makai portion of the district. The authority is moving ahead with a new proposal for an aquarium, marine biology facilities and commercial biotechnology buildings.

Murata said Kamehameha believes in the concept of a new "urban village," developed around the under-construction John A. Burns School of Medicine.

Two of the estate's properties can each hold 250,000 square feet of space near the medical school, which would be best used by biotechnology businesses, he said. Murata said Kamehameha is looking for developers willing to build those 500,000 square feet of commercial space on estate land.

Most of the framework for Kakaako redevelopment is already in place, including $300 million worth of infrastructure, he said.

From an architectural viewpoint, Honolulu does not have grand open spaces and Kakaako provides an opportunity to provide that, with a mixture of education and commerce and waterfront activities, Murata said.

"The big goal here is to create a community," he said, "to keep our young people in Hawaii."

Hawaii Community Development Authority
Kamehameha Schools

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