Whole Foods held up by concerns over iwi
The Oahu Burial Council delays a public meeting until next month
Development of General Growth Properties Inc.'s Ward Village Shops has been delayed at least one more month as the developer, state officials and residents decide how to deal with native Hawaiian remains found buried at the site.
The Oahu Burial Council was scheduled to consider General Growth's proposal for the bones last week. But fears that the 12-member council could not muster a quorum and a desire to give the public more time to weigh in caused the council to cancel its August meeting, said Jace McQuivey, the council's chairman.
"If anyone has any comments, we still want to hear their testimony," McQuivey said.
The discovery of the bones has created a thorny situation for General Growth and Whole Foods Market Inc., the socially conscious grocer that has proposed to be the project's anchor tenant. Known in Hawaiian as iwi, the bones carry enormous cultural significance in native traditions. General Growth has proposed to move the bones to a memorial to be located near the developed site. But some native Hawaiians who can trace their ancestry back to the redevelopment site have objected to that proposal.
The Oahu Burial Council, a division of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources that is charged with advising on how to care for iwi, is scheduled to address the General Growth project at its next meeting on Sept. 13.
In the meantime, costs continue to mount for the massive project at the corner of Auahi and Kamakee streets, which is the heart of General Growth's $100 million redevelopment of the Ward area.
"You have to respect the (indigenous) customs," said Jim Steding, a project manager for Morris-Shea Bridge Co. Inc., of Irondale, Ala., which is in charge of driving piles for the project. But, Steding added, "It's a costly situation."
Although Morris-Shea is being compensated for having its expensive pile-driving equipment sidelined, Steding said the company could be making more money if the equipment was being used. But he said there's no work for the equipment to do in Hawaii, and it's simply too expensive to ship it back to the mainland, where it might be put to use, and then back to Hawaii.
"We'd like that equipment to be profiting us, and it's just not costing us anything" extra to have it idle, Steding said.
"It is costing us money; money and time," Dwight Yoshimura, a senior vice president with General Growth, said of the delay.
Yoshimura declined to quantify the losses. Likewise, Yoshimura said he could not predict when the project might get back on track. First, he said, the matter of the iwi must be resolved.
"I can't comment on that until we get over this first hurdle," he said when asked when the project might be finished. "First things first."