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Hawaii’s World

By A.A. Smyser

Tuesday, January 30, 2001

Kakaako ‘dream’
plan will need
legislative support

KAKAAKO Makai. Roll the name over your tongue. You will be using it more.

It is the part of Kakaako that lies makai of Ala Moana Boulevard -- largely state-owned and largely underdeveloped.

It is the biggest such urban tract under state control.

Governor Cayetano has plans for it that include:

Bullet A major national aquarium/ocean science center at Point Panic with standout architecture that will be a major attraction for both tourists and our own people.

Bullet An educational emphasis that will make Bishop Museum's proposed new Science Learning Center a great fit.

Bullet A special campus for the University of Hawaii Medical School that will give it the elbow room to go in a big way into bio-technical research following on its triumph with the world's first mouse cloning.

Bullet The Med School to be joined there by the UH Cancer Research Center, now downtown.

Bullet The Med School and Cancer Center to accelerate Hawaii's growth as the "Health Care Center of the Pacific" and draw in grants that will make us, in the governor's words, "a Silicon Valley for Bio-Technology."

Bullet The state Department of Health to leave the state Capitol complex and relocate there also.

The new UH medical dean, Edwin Cadman, attracted here from Yale University, joins the governor in seeing all this as possible. He sees a significant number of research teams able to co-locate in Kakaako with federal or other funding. Actual patient care would remain at our hospitals and health spas.

The Kakaako Improvement Association heard the governor on this topic last week and seemed to buy in though no vote was taken.

Hawaii's hospitals are supportive, the dean and governor said.

Bishop Museum directors have voted support if land and funds are available. They already have $16 million toward a goal of $35-$40 million for the center raised, with the idea of building on the present museum site in Kalihi.

The Waikiki Aquarium is in full support. Walter Dods, CEO of First Hawaiian Bank, has committed to help raise $20 million in private funds to supplement state capital improvement borrowings the governor estimates at $50 million.

The Hawaii Community Development Authority, master planner and developer for the area, also buys in.

The governor recalls that HCDA was formed by the state 30 years ago, when Frank Fasi was mayor of Honolulu, to take control of Kakaako away from Fasi. The governor was a legislator at the time. He said the Legislature hoped more would be done, and faster, than has been the case.

Cayetano's stimulus comes with less than two years left in his term, but he is hopeful the necessary forces can be set in motion in that time.

The Legislature is the most likely source of foot-dragging. It won't necessarily oppose the ideas, but it is likely to find other priorities for its spending. It is under great pressure to grant bigger government employee pay raises than the governor proposes and to expand public education.

Education is a magic word these days. Some of it can be done, of course, by bringing public school students to the new aquarium and the science learning center for enriching experiences they never will get in the classroom.

Can the Legislature find a balance that will keep the big dream intact?

A.A. Smyser is the contributing editor
and former editor of the the Star-Bulletin
His column runs Tuesday and Thursday.

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