Developer elaborates
on plan for waterfront

Ocean views and a park atmosphere
are central to Ken Hughes's vision

Honolulu needs a complete waterfront redevelopment, moving downtown traffic through a park atmosphere like that of New York's Central Park and removing buildings and other obstructions to harbor and ocean views, according to a Texas developer who has spent more than a year coming up with design concepts for the Aloha Tower area.

Ken Hughes's Dallas-based UC Urban won an Aloha Tower Development Corp. contract to be the only designer-builder the state waterfront agency is talking to, for now, about redeveloping Piers 5 and 6.

Yesterday he showed ATDC board members a refined and enlarged plan for "Pacific Quay" that mixes a downtown rail system, automobile access, parking and, most of all, easy physical and visual access to the waterfront.

He said too many rivers and harbors in the United States have been "paved over," which he said means building walls of buildings hiding the water. Honolulu is in danger of doing just that and buildings should be removed, rather than erected, in a broad plan to create a downtown waterfront park, Hughes said.

One of his visions is a broad set of steps, 150 feet wide, from the bottom of Alakea Street to the harbor, his "steps to Atlantis."

The Hawaiian Electric Co. generating plant would have to go and buildings should be kept as low-rise as possible, he said.

"If the objective is to open the sea to the city, then you shouldn't build high-rises that march along the water," Hughes said.

He wants a mix of commercial and residential activities that would expand beyond the piers in his contract and some changes are essential. The Aloha Tower Marketplace has always needed better vehicle access and pedestrian access must be easier too, he said.

Hughes, who developed the transit-connected, multiuse complex called Mockingbird Station in Dallas and other similar projects, said easy people movement is essential, but the waterfront area should not be isolated from the downtown business center, as it now is.

He wants a trolley system running on curbside rails, like the one that opened recently in Portland, Ore., connecting with whatever broader mass transit system the city and state create.

Hughes said he has been approached by a major real estate development financial organization, Freemont Realty Capital, that wants to help and that could make his plans move ahead faster than he thought, but he said many of the steps in his project will take years.

One of those is the relocation of the Hawaiian Electric plant.

"There is no city on the mainland that has not deleted these industrial uses from their harbor," he said. Hughes said he has been talking to the utility and knows he has a lot to learn, but one thing he has learned is that the generating equipment itself is housed in a small part of the complex and one of the buildings, the one closest to Aloha Tower, is basically unused.

But he sees the complex being phased out over a few years. "Our approach to Heco was not an arrogant one," he said, adding that the utility's needs for a downtown generator need to be respected. However, there are other places in the area that could house a scaled-down plant performing the same duties and not obstructing the waterfront, he said.

Irwin Park, now used for parking at the marketplace, should be "Irwin Grove," a tree-filled rest spot for downtown workers and visitors, he said. Parking would be in the "Ewa Garage," the old harbor shed where valets now park cars for marketplace users, and in a new "Diamond Head Garage," where the Coast Guard and the Foreign Trade Zone are now.

There would be a broad pedestrian walkway through the middle of the complex and several rail-trolley stations so people could easily cross Nimitz, he said.

Hughes also would like to broaden the Maritime Museum to include maritime aviation, such as some commemoration of the Pan Am Clipper flying boats that pioneered aviation in the Pacific in the 1930s.

Hughes said all his studies will be complete in time for an ATDC meeting in January.


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