General Growth OK’d to move bones
The remains were at the planned site of a Whole Foods Market
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General Growth Properties has gotten a green light to remove some of the remains beneath the site of the planned Whole Foods Market store in Kakaako.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources told the Ward Villages site owner last week it could move 10 sets of remains on the Diamond Head side of the project, where the gourmet grocery store is to be located.
Three of the sets of remains have been identified as native Hawaiian, while ethnicity for the others could not be determined.
A total of 55 sets of remains have been found so far at the Ward project site.
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The state has given General Growth Properties the go-ahead to remove 10 sets of remains beneath a proposed Whole Foods Market at the Ward Villages site in Kakaako.
In a letter dated Aug. 16, newly appointed Department of Land and Natural Resources chair Laura Thielen gives General Growth permission to relocate the burials, all on the Diamond Head side of the Ward Village Shops site, where a 67,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market is planned.
Of the remains, General Growth's archaeology firm, Cultural Surveys Hawaii, determined that three sets were native Hawaiian because of the way they were buried; ethnicity could not be determined for the others.
General Growth requested permission to relocate the remains in a letter dated Aug. 15, asking that the state Historic Preservation Division render a decision within 48 hours.
The letter says that the department concluded greater consideration for preservation in place was not warranted because the remains in question were not associated with a concentration of burials or important individuals and events as recommended by the Oahu Island Burial Council.
Also, they were not located in areas within a context of historic properties.
In addition, the letter said noted that there is no consensus among the recognized cultural descendants on whether the native Hawaiian burials should be preserved in place or relocated. All but one set of remains has been previously disturbed.
"GGP is provided with the authority to conduct the immediate disinterment of these burials, and shall curate all remains on-site with those burials previously disinterred," says the letter signed by Thielen. "Please amend your previously approved burial treatment plan to include the reburial of these human skeletal remains within the burial preserve as specified in this correspondence."
Because the remains are considered "inadvertent finds," the state has jurisdiction over them rather than the Oahu Island Burial Council. The project had been tied up when what originally was thought to be 11 sets of remains grew to 53, at last count.
The current count of burials at the 6-acre site bound by Auahi, Kamakee and Queen Streets is now at 55, with the latest having been discovered while unearthing burial no. 53.
General Growth is planning a parking garage, retail shops and Whole Foods Market at the site, but was held up when an earlier June letter by SHPD administrator Melanie Chinen ordered that the burials be preserved in place. Chinen was on vacation and not available for comment yesterday.
Dwight Yoshimura, senior vice president of General Growth Properties, did not return calls by press time from the Star-Bulletin yesterday.