to party down
The merchants association and
the city want a block party
every Saturday night
Aloha Tower party inviteBy Gordon Y.K. Pang
Chinatown would come to life on Saturday nights with food and booths if area merchants and Mayor Jeremy Harris have their way.
"We need to pick up the place and make it attractive for people to come and visit," said Sun Hung "Sunny" Wong, executive director of the Chinatown Merchants Association.
Area residents from the Downtown Neighborhood Board, however, say they haven't been kept abreast of the plan's development, even though it originally was supposed to start up next month.
The project now is slated to begin sometime in June.
Maunakea Street and other Chinatown thoroughfares are blocked off about two days a year for Lunar New Year-related festivals.
The project calls for a similar setup every Saturday, but on a slightly smaller scale, closing off Maunakea only from 6 to 11 p.m.
"It's going to be chaos," said Lynne Matusow, a board member and Chinatown resident. "To do it twice a year is one thing, but every weekend is another story."
Traffic would be particularly bad on the portion of Maunakea just mauka of the festivities, where there are entrances to three major parking garages, Matusow said.
Merchant association members and Dalton Tanonaka, the city's economic development coordinator, said they don't foresee parking or traffic problems.
Association President Lloyd Lau said there is ample parking in municipal lots throughout Chinatown and traffic in the area is minimal on weekend nights.
"After 5 o'clock, the place is dead," Lau said. "If we want to bring nice things to Chinatown, we've got to bring the traffic down."
The association says similar festivals are set up on the mainland and elsewhere. Merchants and crafts people from Chinatown and the rest of the island would be invited to set up booths to attract locals and visitors.
Wong, who organizes merchants for the annual Night in Chinatown festival, said the goal is to set up a minimum of 30 food and merchandise booths each week.
Matusow said organizers of the event are slated to meet with the neighborhood board on May 6. By that time, she said, it may be too late to address the worries of neighbors.
"They don't realize that we have thousands of people living in the area," Matusow said. "They need to look at the rest of impacts on the area."
She said even some Chinatown merchants, particularly lei sellers who thrive on drive-by customers, have raised concerns about how the festival would affect their businesses.
Tanonaka said the project won't proceed if a good number of residents oppose it.
Visitors invited toBy Gordon Y.K. Pang
Aloha Tower party
Aloha Tower - the landmark that's greeted visitors to Honolulu Harbor since 1926 - will reopen tomorrow with a party.
The 10-story structure, for many years considered the tallest building in Hawaii, has been off-limits to visitors while under renovation since early last year.
Many of the changes won't be noticeable to the public since they deal with meeting Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and bringing the harbor control functions up to code, said Harbors Division engineer Fred Nunes.
One thing visitors will notice is that harbor control operations have been moved down to the ninth floor.
"Tourists up on the tower were kind of getting in the way of operators doing their jobs," Nunes said.
Occupying that corner of the observation deck, instead, will be "ambassadors of aloha," guides provided by the management of Aloha Tower Marketplace who will give information and conduct tours of the tower, marketplace and dock area.
Restrooms also have been installed on the top deck and an emergency stairwell to the ninth floor reopened.
Scott Creel, director of marketing for the marketplace, said guides also will monitor the amount of people on the observation deck at any one time.
When it gets crowded, a guide on the 10th floor will radio a security guard on the ground to stop traffic going up the elevator.
The entire renovation, including the installation of central air conditioning, cost $822,000, Nunes said.
Tomorrow's ceremonies start with entertainment from 10:30 a.m. The actual blessing takes place at 1 p.m. After tomorrow, the observation deck will be open from 9 a.m. until sunset daily.