Clock is running for public input on General Growth plan
The agency that oversees development in Kakaako has a deadline of Feb. 1
STORY SUMMARY »
The Hawaii Community Development Authority has until Feb. 1 to accept or reject a developer's plans for the Ward neighborhood.
General Growth Properties plans a major redevelopment of the 60 acres it owns at Ward, with more than 4,000 additional residences, new roads and three public plazas over the next two decades or more.
Most striking is the transformation of the Kakaako skyline, which would be home to numerous new midrise and high-rise towers, including several along Ala Moana.
In a new effort to solicit public input, HCDA has launched a $20,000 campaign that includes newspaper ads, radio spots, and 11,000 direct mailers to area residents. It is also accepting comments online and through a special hotline.
HCDA has 200 days to review and approve the plan. If the authority makes no decision, the plan automatically would be approved. A public hearing should be scheduled some time in September or October, said HCDA Executive Director Anthony Ching.
FULL STORY »
The clock started ticking as of July 16, according to the Hawaii Community Development Authority, which has 200 days from that date to make a decision on General Growth
's Ward Neighborhood Master Plan.
How to comment
HCDA is seeking more input on General Growth Properties' Ward Neighborhood Master Plan. Comments are welcome until Aug. 31. Comments can be submitted three ways:
» Online: hcdaweb.org/
» Mail: 677 Ala Moana, Suite 1001, Honolulu, HI 96813
» Phone: 587-7683
That means that HCDA, the state agency overseeing all redevelopment in the Kakaako neighborhood, has a deadline of Feb. 1.
General Growth in April unveiled a 20-year master plan overhauling the entire 60 acres it owns at Ward that would transform the skyline and demolish most of the existing buildings.
The Chicago-based developer envisions adding at least 4,000 more residential units in the form of mid- to high-rises, some of which would be along Ala Moana. General Growth also plans to realign existing roads and create three public plazas.
To solicit input from the community, HCDA earlier this month launched a $20,000 public outreach campaign that included newspaper ads, radio spots and the direct mailing of 11,000 postage-paid cards with space for written comments. A special comment phone line also has been set up.
The goal, according to HCDA Executive Director Anthony Ching, is to avoid a mishap similar to the Kakaako Makai episode in 2006, when Alexander & Baldwin's proposed project for residential towers was stamped out by public and legislative protest.
More than 80 comments have been fielded through HCDA's Web site, and many of the prepaid response cards are also coming in, as well as written letters and calls to the hotline.
HCDA held a community open house in May presenting General Growth's plans, but attendance could have been better, and the agency wants additional public input before its staff prepares a report.
Ching said General Growth's application became complete on the 16th after it provided additional information HCDA requested via a 26-page addendum (also available on the Web site).
If the authority makes no decision by Feb. 1, the plan automatically would be approved. A public hearing should be scheduled some time in September or October, said Ching.
While the 200-day timeline just began last week, General Growth has since February outlined a summary of its general plans to the agency.
Ching said of the public comments fielded so far, existing condo residents have said they want their views to preserved, while others want no further development.
Positive feedback, on the other hand, has come back regarding the pedestrian aspects of the plan -- including the promenade and public plazas.
Some have written in their support of keeping height limits to 200 feet. Under current HCDA guidelines, high-rise towers are allowed at a height of up to 400 feet in the district.
At the same time that HCDA is soliciting comments on the Ward master plan, it also is seeking public input on the draft supplemental environmental impact statement, or SEIS, for the Kakaako Mauka area.
Comments for the draft SEIS, prepared by EDAW Inc., must be received or postmarked by Aug. 22, the end of the 45-day comment period.
HCDA oversees 400 acres in the entire mauka area, 60 of which are envisioned for General Growth's master plan.
Jan Yokota, vice president of development for General Growth, said she was pleased that HCDA has accepted its completed application.
"We look forward to the public hearing scheduled on the master plan, and we are continuing to seek input from the public," she said.
General Growth has its own Web site, www.wardneighborhood.com.
Not everyone on board
Community activist Michelle Matson has been opposed to General Growth's plan from the beginning.
She says the plan increases both the density and heights in the area -- the very opposite of what the environmental impact review proposes.
"They're calling these view corridors, but they're just view slots," said Matson. "The wall of high pedestals going up to 75 feet will block Ala Moana, and the tall towers above them will simply create view slots instead of the open view plane we have now."
Matson also questioned how the grand, central plaza will provide open space if it will also become a new street.
Anne Stevens, chair of the Ala Moana neighborhood board, said more green park spaces -- not just paved-over plazas -- are important to her.
Jeff Merz, a planner for the Onyx Group, said he's pleased to see high-rises with slender designs and oriented mauka to makai.
"Whether it's 30 or 35 stories, I'm less concerned with (the height) than if they block views," said Merz. "I think it's important to concentrate on the feel from the street level, and how they make it pedestrian friendly."