ART COURTESY OF KAMEHAMEHA SCHOOLS
As a result of legislation, Kamehameha Schools' proposed Life Sciences Research Complex in Kakaako will have to drop plans to include 120 to 200 residential lofts. The measure had been aimed at stopping Alexander & Baldwin's controversial waterfront development in the area.
Kakaako legislation carries unintended consequences
The bill would prevent lofts from being built at a planned biomedical complex
The bill that stopped Alexander & Baldwin Inc.'s controversial mixed-use development for the Kakaako waterfront has accidentally thrown an obstacle in the way of plans for a $200 million biomedical complex in the area.
Kamehameha Schools' Life Sciences Research Complex, proposed for a site on the ocean side of Ala Moana between Cooke and Coral streets, is meant to be a centerpiece of Honolulu's new life sciences district: a building where biotech companies can set up shop near the University of Hawaii's new John A. Burns School of Medicine and a proposed cancer research center.
But because of the legislation, one component of the project must be scratched: approximately 120-200 residential lofts designed to house scientists in the building.
The new law does not kill the biomedical project entirely, developers said. In fact, the residential component was not even mentioned when the project's owner, Kamehameha Schools, announced that it was in talks with KUD International LLC of Santa Monica and Phase 3 Properties Inc. of San Diego to develop and find tenants for the 400,000-square-foot complex.
But since the announcement, the project's consultants have identified the residential component as needed to help attract companies and scientists, said Kekoa Paulsen, a spokesman for Kamehameha Schools. The designers now must go back and configure the building without the lofts, Paulsen said.
"Our intent to support a life sciences sector in Kakaako has been unintentionally harmed by the act," Paulsen said. "As it turns out, with a total ban on residential, we'll be hampered by not being able to provide some work-force housing that was going to be makai of Ala Moana."
The legislation in question was aimed not at Kamehameha Schools, but at Alexander & Baldwin, which had proposed a mixed-use development that would have included approximately 635 condominiums in two high-rise towers. Although most of the development would have been located on state-owned land, A&B had proposed the state sell several acres for the condo towers.
After fierce public opposition, the Legislature passed bills prohibiting the sale of state land in Kakaako makai -- and also banning all residential development there. The bill banning development has not yet become law and could still be vetoed by Gov. Linda Lingle. A&B has said that it cannot develop the project without the condos.
By banning all residential development -- even low-rise projects on private land -- the Legislature "threw the baby out with the bath water," said Larry Preble, a vice president with KUD.
Proponents of the legislation said yesterday that Kamehameha Schools should have made its concerns clearer when the Legislature was considering the bill.
Ron Iwami, a spokesman for the activist coalition Save Our Kakaako, said he had not heard about Kamehameha Schools' residential component until yesterday.
"They should have brought it out earlier to the community," he said.
State Sen. Russell Kokubun, who was a key supporter of the legislation, said that Kamehameha Schools had mentioned its plans for the residential component to him early in the legislative session. But he said he assumed Kamehameha Schools had altered its plans because it did not follow up as the legislation moved forward. Lawmakers might have written an exception for Kamehameha's project had they known there was a concern, Kokubun said.
Kokubun added that the bills were hardly stealth legislation, given the repeated marches and rallies by activists supporting the measures and numerous media reports on the issue.
Paulsen said that Kamehameha Schools was not trying to hide its plans for lofts, but that it was only recently that the plan became concrete enough to discuss.
Much of the debate over A&B's plan, he said, focused on whether it was appropriate to sell taxpayer-owned, oceanfront land to a private developer to build luxury condominiums.
The biomedical project was entirely different, Paulsen said.
"It wasn't until late in the session that the change was made to eliminate residential use anywhere in (Kakaako) makai," he said.
Preble said that KUD and Phase 3 are determined to complete the project.
"It obviously makes it more difficult," Preble said. "The project is difficult enough because what we're doing is trying to create a new industry in Hawaii, and every roadblock that you put in front of it makes it more difficult."