Waterfront renewal back to square one
Prospects for a Kakaako project appear dim after lawmakers approve a pair of bills.
A COMPANY'S withdrawal of plans to redevelop public land at the Kakaako waterfront sends the state back to the drawing board for long-sought transformation of the run-down industrial area.
Apparent veto-proof legislation that bars the sale of state land for private residences -- key to financing the venture -- and A&B Properties Inc.'s exit means the Hawaii Community Development Authority must reformulate the project, possibly setting back renewal of the blighted site for years.
Governor Lingle, who supported the project, still could reject measures state lawmakers passed in response to community opposition. However, near-unanimous approval of the bills and A&B's move discount a veto.
If anything comes of this disarray, it should be the authority's re-evaluating its dealings with the public and adopting practices that do not shut out or derogate community sentiments.
One of the bills requires HCDA be more communicative with the public and the Legislature, and it appears the agency is taking its first steps in doing so. The Star-Bulletin's Stewart Yerton reports that HCDA has tentative plans for a committee made up of various groups and individuals to help in decision-making.
The chief objection to the project was the sale of state land and the positioning of condos on the waterfront. Residential sales were the means by which A&B would pay for the extensive redevelopment that also included a park, farmers market and retail space.
A&B's pullout leaves the HCDA without the financial wherewithal for fixing up the eyesore acreage. A fresh waterfront quarter would be a boon for Honolulu, but costs will be a huge burden on the state's treasury without some private investment.
Although A&B unfairly took the brunt of criticism, the onus for the failed project lies chiefly with HCDA. Now the agency and taxpayers have to figure out how it will polish the rough waterfront gem and how to pay for its shine.
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