A city official says the city needs proceeds from the sale of Block J, a parking lot bordered by Pali Highway and Beretania, Queen Emma and Kukui streets, to balance the current budget.

City land sale plan
raises parking concerns

Theodore Hirata works in downtown Honolulu and parks his car at the city's municipal parking lot at Block J because he cannot walk far to his office due to a medical condition.

"Parking is really my main concern," Hirata told the City Council yesterday, noting that if the sale of Block J goes through, parking will be even harder to find downtown.

The Council's Budget Committee has scheduled a special meeting at 10 a.m. Wednesday so it can get answers to questions and concerns raised about the city's sale of the municipal lot to Pflueger Group LLC for $10.5 million.

Block J, a remnant of the city's old downtown redevelopment plan, is a 103,000-square-foot parking lot bordered by Pali Highway and Beretania, Queen Emma and Kukui streets.

The city put Block J up for sale last year for $15 million after plans for a long-delayed affordable rental project fell through four years ago.

Bids on the property came in between $4 million and $15 million, but the city determined that the highest bid was not a serious offer because of the conditions placed on the bid, said Ivan Lui-Kwan, director of the city Budget & Fiscal Services Department.

The deal will expire if the Council does not approve the sale by its regularly scheduled Feb. 18 meeting, but Council members said they needed more time to get answers to questions. So the committee deferred taking action on the sale and scheduled the special meeting.

Lui-Kwan said the city needs the proceeds of the sale to balance the current fiscal budget and that if the sale does not go through, "it's going to have an impact on our budget."

Committee members, along with residents and downtown businesses, had questions and concerns about parking, liability, whether a car dealership would be the "best and highest use" of the property and whether such a business would portray an aesthetically pleasing image as a gateway to downtown.

"I would hate to have my name attached to something that was a thorn in downtown Honolulu -- that's not going to sell more cars," said Alan Pflueger, president.

Pflueger said he wants to create a "crown jewel" at the entry to downtown, and the company has tried to address concerns by offering to have 100 public parking stalls at municipal rates for 10 years.

Lui-Kwan said city employees who currently park there would be given stickers that will allow them to park at other city facilities.

Providing municipal parking was not a requirement in the city's offer of the property, and company officials indicated to the Council that if the city did require the company to provide municipal parking in perpetuity, that could break the deal.

Randall Kurata, chief financial officer, said the Pflueger car lot in Kakaako is on leased land owned by Kamehameha Schools.

Councilman Charles Djou said he thinks Pflueger will do a good job with the property, but constituents "are concerned about a used car lot and a bunch of junk cars, rusting cars sitting right at the entrance of Honolulu."

Pflueger said he would like to follow the examples of the BMW and other luxury car dealerships on Kapiolani Boulevard.

"It's beautiful and it's big windows and nice lighting and the appropriate landscaping is how I envision it," he said.

But Pflueger said that he would also like to explore the option of optimizing the use of the space with mixed business uses like condominiums.


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