Lawmakers voice concern over plan to build at Kakaako
Senate leaders urge caution over the redevelopment plan
Saturday, October 15, 2005
» The land-use designation for property designated by the Hawaii Community Development Authority for a combined residential, commercial and parking facility is mixed use. A story on Page A1 yesterday said the land for the residential development was designated for a park.
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A multimillion-dollar condominium project that is part of a proposed Kewalo Basin-Kakaako waterfront redevelopment plan is raising critical questions among state Senate leaders.
ALA MOANA AREA MIXED-USE PLAN
Developer: A&B Properties Inc., subsidiary of Alexander & Baldwin Inc.
Project: Develop 65 acres of state-owned land makai of Ala Moana Boulevard, next to Kewalo Basin.
Includes: 220,500 square feet of new retail and dining attractions, three 20-story residential towers and 2,928 parking spots.
Financing: A&B to buy 7.7 acres from the state for $50 million to build 947 condominium units combined with 30,000 square feet of retail space. A&B will lease the other land in the project for about $600,000 a year.
The Hawaii Community Development Authority selected A&B Properties as the developer of the $650 million project, which features condominiums, shops and recreational facilities on the 65-acre state property.
Democratic senators met with the developers yesterday and several came away concerned about the state's plans to sell the land for the condos.
"What is most troubling are the high-end condos and the sale of the fee-interest state land. I find the sale of the state land very, very troubling," said Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, majority leader.
The state would get $50 million for the sale of the condos, according to the proposal, Hanabusa said.
"I think there could be delays because some of us have major questions about this kind of a sale," Hanabusa warned.
Senate President Robert Bunda (D, Wahiawa-Pupukea) said legislators -- following a closed-door caucus -- were concerned about the residential project.
"There are a lot of questions about infrastructure and what is the overall plan for Kakaako and how does this new plan fit it," Bunda said.
Under consideration by senators are changes to state law to require the legislature to approve all land sales. Currently, state law requires the Legislature to approve land swaps or exchanges, but not land sales.
"With the sale of state land, which is a finite resource, I think we should proceed with caution, perhaps it should only be by affirmative approval (of the legislature)," said Sen. Russell Kokubun, chairman of the Water and Land Use Committee.
In response, Daniel Dinell, HCDA executive director, said the state's authority to sell property is included in the laws that created the HCDA, and the plans for apartments and a park to share the state land have been an established part of the development plan.
"It is about what has always been the vision of the HCDA, a mixed use of life, work and play," Dinell said.
But lawmakers such as Hanabusa said that putting fee-simple condos on state park land is not a good idea.
"I don't know why the state feels the need to do this, except to help a developer pencil out a project -- that is not our job."
"Is this the next step to putting a condominium in the middle of Ala Moana Park or on Magic Island," Hanabusa said.
Kokubun (D, Hilo-Naalehu) said the Legislature is not against redevelopment of the Kakaako area, but the condos on the makai side of Ala Moana Boulevard are a concern.
"We think the vision is a good one ... but I think we need to proceed cautiously," Kokubun said.
Dinell, however, notes that the HCDA plans since 1994 have mentioned residential use in the area and the 2002 Residential Waterfront Business Plan "mixture of uses (residential, commercial, retail entertainment center, medical school, park, and parking) functioning as a gathering place for residents, employees, and patrons alike."
Dinell said the land also has been zoned for commercial use, which would have allowed someone developing the property to put up a commercial building.
The apartments, Dinell said, would allow for A&B to make money, which would fund developing the other portions of the property and add a mixture to the area that people want.