Friday, August 6, 1999

Kewalo Basin project
poses some questions

Bullet The issue: A state agency has approved a proposal for a retailing and entertainment development on the Kewalo Basin waterfront.

Bullet Our view: The project will need strong attractions to succeed in an area with lots of other shops and restaurants.

A long-neglected area of the city would be dramatically transformed under a plan approved by the Hawaii Community Development Authority. Ten acres of state land along the Kewalo Basin waterfront would be used for a retailing and entertainment development by a company headed by D.G. "Andy" Anderson, the former state senator and current operator of a nearby restaurant. But there are doubts about its prospects.

The authority, which controls development in Kakaako, selected Anderson's project, called Kewalo Pointe, over one called Kewalo Waterfront Village, submitted by Imperial Associates Ltd.

Kewalo Pointe is to include a 40-meter-high Ferris wheel, a laser-light tower, a carousel and a miniature golf course, ringed by retail shops and restaurants. The project is expected to be developed in phases over 20 years at a cost of $138 million.

The authority's board selected the Anderson project on a unanimous vote. However, the authority's staff had expressed doubts about the project on grounds of economically feasibility, financial viability and economic benefits to the state.

Governor Cayetano, referring to the proposed Ferris wheel and other attractions, said he did not want to see Kakaako become another Coney Island. He also questioned the wisdom of developing more retail space near other shopping areas.

We don't see why a Ferris wheel should be a problem. This is supposed to be a recreational development, and if done with imagination it could be an asset.

BUT we agree that the competition from other centers should be a concern, in view of the proximity of Ala Moana Center, Aloha Tower Marketplace and Restaurant Row. In addition, the Ward Estate has plans to expand its retail operations.

Anderson's concept is to provide family recreation in a waterfront setting, with restaurants and shops thrown in. It could work, but it would have to offer attractions that are strikingly different from what is available elsewhere.

Desmond Byrne

DESMOND Byrne, who died Tuesday at 64, was a tireless fighter for open government. As chairman of the Honolulu chapter of the watchdog group Common Cause, he defended the right of every citizen to know how tax money is spent and what elected officials are doing.

Born in England, Byrne was an accountant who worked in Hong Kong and the Bahamas before settling in Honolulu.

In 1982 he formed Honolulu Information Service, which researches businesses, government and public records, tracks bills in the Legislature and helps mainland companies search for assets in Hawaii.

In 1995 he was named Small Business Person of the Year. He served as president of the Friends of the East-West Center and Friends of the Library and as chairman of the Better Business Bureau. He was also active in the Honolulu Community/Media Council.

Larry Meacham, executive director of Common Cause Hawaii, said Byrne "never gave up pursuing open government and ethics in government."

Without people like Desmond Byrne to defend citizens' rights, democracy would wither away.

Waikiki Natatorium

Bullet The issue: A circuit judge has given approval for restoration of portions of the Waikiki Natatorium.

Bullet Our view: Restoration efforts should continue until the swimming pool is included.

A Circuit Court ruling that allows work to begin on restoration of portions of the Waikiki Natatorium is a step forward in correcting the shameful neglect of the World War I memorial. Judge Gary W.B. Chang denied a request to block all work on the project.

This will permit the city to start restoration of the arch, facade and restrooms. Mayor Harris said construction will begin Monday.

Still in doubt, however, is the fate of the plan to restore the heart of the facility, the salt-water swimming pool. As a result of another court ruling, the city must obtain clearance from the state Health Department for the pool. But the department has no standards for salt-water pools, and it's expected to take months to develop them.

Approval for the pool restoration is crucial to the entire project. Failure to obtain it would make the rest of the work an absurdity. In that event the pool would probably continue to crumble away, because it's unlikely that permission could be obtained to demolish it.

The design for the restoration provides for frequent flushing of the pool that would greatly improve water quality and deal with health concerns. It should meet any reasonable standard.

Because of legal delays, Harris says the $10.8 million restoration contract already awarded will no longer cover all costs. The city is negotiating the cost without the pool. He hopes to obtain money for the pool restoration subsequently from the federal government and other sources.

RESTORATION efforts must not stop with those now approved by the court. This campaign should not end until the Natatorium is fully restored. The City Council will be making a huge mistake if it shortsightedly tries to sabotage this project.

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