Group proposes Kakaako fishing village
The coalition presents a plan that would scrap A&B's proposal to acquire public land for condos
An activist coalition presented a sweeping proposal yesterday for development of the Kakaako waterfront.
But the plan's proponents left unanswered several key questions, including how much the project would cost, precisely who would pay for it and how it could be developed at this point, given that the state already is in negotiations with a developer selected to create a much different type of project.
A group called Save Kakaako Makai presented its "People's Preferred Plan" to the board of the state's Hawaii Community Development Authority, which is in talks with A&B Properties Inc. to build a mixed-use "urban village" on a largely blighted, 36.5-acre tract of publicly owned waterfront land in Honolulu.
A&B's development calls for retail space and about 635 condominiums in two towers, plus public amenities such as park space, a hula amphitheater, a farmers' market and public parking. Under the proposed deal, A&B would be allowed to acquire six acres of the public land for the condominiums. The sale of the condos would help A&B pay for the amenities that would not produce revenue and would enable the state agency to redevelop the property without forcing taxpayers to foot the bill for the improvements.
Although A&B has scaled back its project based on public comments, citizens have continued to object to the sale of any state land to a private entity.
The plan presented yesterday by some of these opponents would eliminate the residential and retail components of the project. Instead, the alternative plan would have a Historic Hawaiian Fishing Village complex that would offer "a historic look at Hawaii from days past." The village would include a canoe hale, a forest of native plants and an artificial stream. The surfing museum could include a 30-foot acrylic wave, vintage wooden tanker surfboards, surfing memorabilia and "simulated 'Pipeline Tube' rides,'" the plan says. The museum and village would be run by a nonprofit organization.
For all of its vision, the plan did not address some practical details.
For example, Wayne Takamine, one of the plan's proponents, could not say how much it would cost to build. And supporters also could not say precisely how it would be financed. In contrast to A&B's proposal, which outlined the company's financing plan and stated that A&B had liquid resources of $630 million at the end of 2004, the "People's Preferred Plan" speaks only generally about paying for the project with a combination of public and private grants, donations, taxpayer money and revenue from village and museum admissions.
Another question involves the process for implementing the plan if the HCDA wanted to do so. The state agency has been in talks for months with A&B, which the agency selected from a field of bidding developers under a request for proposals process.
Given this process, it is unlikely that the HCDA could simply adopt the alternative plan. Dan Dinell, the HCDA's executive director, said the agency will use the RFP process to guide it, but Dinell declined to speculate on how this might apply to the adoption of the People's Preferred Plan.
James Kometani, chairman of the HCDA's board, asked why proponents of the alternative plan had not submitted their proposal when the agency issued its request for proposals.
Michael Kliks, one of the plan's proponents, sidestepped the question and turned it back onto Kometani, saying the HCDA had not adequately sought public input before it issued the request for proposals.
"Why didn't you come to us before you formulated the RFP?" Kliks said. "That's the real question."
Kliks said the alternative plan might be simple to execute if A&B were willing to scratch its proposal and adopt the People's Preferred Plan. Although A&B already has implemented some of the features of the alternative plan, including the creation of extensive park space on the waterfront, executives said the proposal as a whole was not right for A&B.
"The proposal made today by the Kakaako group incorporates some of the ideas we had proposed for our project, but is essentially an entertainment- and tourism-based project," said Stan Kuriyama, chief executive of A&B. "We are not experts in the type of attractions being proposed, and we cannot comment on their feasibility. However, as we have always said, there are number of different visions that could be adopted for these lands, and this group's plan represents yet another possible vision for the area."