Thursday, April 26, 2001

Rapid approval
of Waikiki plaza
plan alarms
property owners

But testimony by the
owners raises concerns
among 3 Council members

By Treena Shapiro

Troy Alotis had no inkling that his Da Hui surf shop, opening at the entrance to Waikiki in December, was targeted to be the site of an open-air plaza.

But three months later, he learned that the city is considering condemning the Kalauokalani Way property to create a 1-acre gateway plaza into Waikiki.

He leases a 3,000-square-foot space in one of six lots across the street from the Hawai'i Convention Center.

Club Rock-Za, a popular strip club, is targeted by this proposal, but the lots also house tour companies, manicure and alteration shops, a watchmaker and a church.

As the bill regarding the plaza passed its first approval in City Council yesterday, Alotis feared $100,000 in construction and more than $200,000 in retail investments will be lost.

"We're perplexed. We're shocked," he said. "I just cannot believe that this city or the county or the state operates in a fashion that they push forward a bill of this nature without doing any type of research, any type of communication."

Ken Ryan of Ryan Associates, which owns the building where Alotis leases his store, said he was alarmed by how quickly the plan has moved. He received a letter from the city about the possible condemnation on March 8.

On April 4 -- the day before the Planning Commission recommended that the proposal be passed to the City Council -- Ryan heard through the media about the mayor's plans to build the gateway plaza.

Allen Wolff, attorney for Daiichi Hawaii Real Estate Corp., which owns three of the properties faced with condemnation, was also bothered by the swiftness of the process, especially as the buildings could be leveled by the end of the year.

"This doesn't seem like a railroad," Wolff said. "It seems like a bullet train."

None of the Council members objected to moving the bill to the Planning and Public Safety Committee. But after hearing testimony from seven property and business owners who would be negatively affected by the condemnation, John Henry Felix, Andy Mirikitani and Duke Bainum said they had serious concerns about the project.

"Certainly perhaps the prep work in regards to the administration and the interaction with the owners was not optimal," Bainum said.

He added, however, that he was heartened by the landowner's willingness to work with the city in cleaning up the area and said it may be possible to incorporate their buildings into the plans for the plaza.

"We have the obligation to take something that is unsightly and make something very precious," he said.

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