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Thursday, January 11, 2001

Kunia shopping
center plan
draws opposition

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Plans for a 41-acre shopping center at Royal Kunia could face a tough fight ahead.

A motion to hold the rezoning request in the City Council's Zoning Committee until community concerns can be addressed was defeated 3-2.

Members Duke Bainum and Romy Cachola voted for deferral while Chairman John DeSoto was joined by Rene Mansho and John Henry Felix in seeking to advance the request to the Council.

Plans call for as much as 400,000 square feet of floor area including two anchor tenants, a supermarket, a drugstore, movie theaters, bowling alley and a medical-financial-office center.

Critics say approval would give developers the right to build a facility comparable to Kahala Mall. Project planner Keith Kurahashi said Mililani Town Center would be a better comparison.

Kurahashi said rezoning for a large area is being sought to provide more open space and avoid needing to have buildings more than one-story high.

Several Waipahu community leaders testified against the project, stating such a mall would kill efforts to revitalize the old plantation town's business district.

Some have also questioned what the project will do to traffic along a Kunia Road already stressed by shoppers from around the island who travel to the nearby Wal-Mart outlet.

Another issue is the project's viability. An official with Times Super Market testified that the company's Kunia location has the weakest sales in the chain.

Felix said he wants to see a market study.

Supporters of the project say it is necessary to complete a self-contained community. Mansho said the project would likely help traffic since area residents would not need to travel outside their neighborhood to get their needs met.

Project architect Lloyd Sueda said developers HRT Ltd., Honolulu Ltd. and 300 Corp. are affiliated with the nonprofit Weinberg Foundation, which has contributed millions in donations to the community, including Waipahu.

But Councilman Gary Okino, who does not sit on the Zoning Committee, said the Kunia shopping center "could destroy everything you've done in Waipahu -- and more."

The city Planning Commission has recommended approval of the project, despite objections raised by the Planning and Permitting Department, which stated that 22.5 acres was enough space.

The shopping center will be among the items discussed at a community meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 24 at Hoaeea Community Park.

E-mail to City Desk

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