Implement plans to revitalize the Kakaako waterfront
Opponents of Kakaako waterfront development are urging state legislators to block the plans.
PLANS for development of the Kakaako waterfront were scaled down last month
but further changes may be necessary to repel a move in the Legislature to block the project. Abandoning the ambitious proposal after years of planning would be a travesty, leaving much of the area as a dormant eyesore.
The Hawaii Community Development Authority began plans for revitalizing the area several years ago and selected Alexander & Baldwin in September to develop the 65-acre tract. The blueprint includes an amphitheater, restaurants, other business activity and -- most controversial -- residential units.
The company made changes last month in response to public objections, deleting a pedestrian bridge across Kewalo Basin, erasing restaurants planned at Point Panic and Kewalo Basin Park and eliminating one of three planned condominium buildings, reducing the number of units from 950 to 635.
A group opposing the development is targeting the condos, recognizing that their sales are the "driving force" that "allows the entire project to be possible." The question is whether it would be economically feasible for a second condo building to be eliminated, essentially returning to the original business plan in 2002, which called for only 300 to 400 units.
Opponents argue that the condos are likely to be bought by wealthy nonresidents, turning the area into an enclave for the rich. A&B wants to offer the units first to owner-occupants and then to other Hawaii residents before giving nonresidents an opportunity to buy them.
One-fifth of the units are to be sold at prices deemed to be affordable to middle-income families, according to state guidelines. State Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland says that could mean prices of $300,000, which "is not even close to being affordable."
Governor Lingle told the Star-Bulletin's Stewart Yerton that she would like more than 20 percent of the units to carry affordable price tags. It also is important to her that the condos be sold to local people, not absentee owners. If feasible, a requirement that all units be occupied by owners who are Hawaii residents may be necessary to achieve public consensus.
The argument that no land between Ala Moana Boulevard and the ocean be residential conflicts with the plan's concept as a "live, work, learn and play" area that would not shut down at dusk. The delay in going forward with onsite residences as part of the Aloha Tower Marketplace created economic problems. Plans now include 375 condominiums and retail space at Piers 5 and 6.
Halting the project at this point would amount to the state reneging on its deal with A&B, which has invested time and money in developing the proposal and following up with studies and public hearings. "I hope we don't create the reputation of a state whose word is no good," Lingle said.