Saturday, February 20, 1999

Park could lose
60-year-plus trees

Aloha Tower developers would
plant new trees at a new park
atop a two-level parking garage

By Jerry Tune


SAVE about 20 old trees, or add more park space and plant about 50 new ones?

That's the question being posed for downtown's Irwin Memorial Park, as developers attempt to put a new park atop a two-level parking garage with about 500 stalls.

One parking level would be below ground and the other above ground, but hidden by landscaped earth berms.

The existing trees are mostly monkeypod and banyan, and are more than 60 years old, with broad, shady canopies.

The new trees -- which would be planted by Aloha Tower Limited Partnership, owners of Aloha Tower Marketplace -- include monkeypods and possibly shower trees.


Park could revert to heirs

Scott McCormack, vice president of Aloha Tower LP, said the development would try to save some of the old trees, but was unsure about how many would survive the shock during construction.

The developers have hired Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo to do the plans for the new park, which would include two grassed areas, an amphitheater, gazebo, pathways and a plaza area, with a memorial to William B. Irwin, a 20th-century sugar magnate.

His daughter, Helene Irwin Fagan, donated about a half-acre of the 2.2-acre park in 1930. The donation included a clause that said the land would revert back to the heirs if all of Irwin Park -- including state-owned land -- were not used for a park.

The issue is now before the state Legislature, which is considering a state administration bill to allow for purchase or condemnation, using eminent domain, of the Fagan interest.

Developers' plan opposed

But McCormack still hopes that an amicable settlement of the question can be made with the Irwin Foundation, headed by William L. Olds Jr. of San Francisco.

McCormack has talked to the foundation, but so far it has not taken a position on the new park plan, he said. Some family descendants living in Hawaii, and the Outdoor Circle, oppose the new park idea.

"We would like to sit down with the Outdoor Circle and the family members and show them our plans," McCormack said.

Mary Steiner, chief executive officer of the Outdoor Circle, said she has seen a rendering of the plan but declined comment on the details.

"They should be looking for alternative sites for the parking," she said. "We will fight to save the trees."

For music, farmer's market

Architect Robert Iopa described the details and presented a rendering showing the park as it would appear after three to five years of tree growth:

bullet Three large monkeypod trees would be purchased from nurseries for the grassed areas. The new trees, when purchased, would have 10- to 12-inch-wide trunks with 30-foot canopies. Existing monkeypods at the park typically have 18-inch trunks and larger canopies.

bullet Four monkeypods would be located on the Nimitz Highway side of the park, and five monkeypods are shown for the median of the highway, pending state Transportation Department approval.

bullet The smaller shade trees in the park have not been identified by species, but they could include shower trees. Smaller trees would be 12 feet tall at the bottom of the canopy to allow people to walk under them.

bullet The amphitheater would seat about 100 to 150 persons, with additional space on park benches and grass for concerts like those at Tamarind Park downtown.

bullet The urban plaza area would be used for special events, possibly a farmer's market.

bullet The existing older trees could be cut back and replanted in a nearby area, such as Piers 5-6, or donated to a park. Large trees' survival rate after one move is about 75 percent but with a second move, back to Irwin park, their chances fall to 50 percent, Iopa said.

bullet Construction time for the new park, and parking garage, is nine to 12 months.

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