State revamps plans
for Kakaako, again
The area's redevelopment
agency drops a proposal for an
aquarium on 11.5 acres at Point Panic
The state's wish list for development of its prime waterfront lands in Kakaako just got larger.
The Hawaii Community Development Authority, the state agency responsible for Kakaako's master plan, scrapped plans yesterday to partner with KUD International LLC to build a six-story aquarium complex on 11.5 acres of land at Point Panic. The project would have also included a marine research facility for the University of Hawaii and a commercial biomedical research facility.
The authority has broadened its scope and is now focused on seeking a master developer to design an urban village that provides research, retail, entertainment and residential facilities. The new developer would be working with an additional 17.5 acres that also includes frontage along Kewalo Basin.
"Today's action will give HCDA the opportunity to ensure that the makai area becomes a gathering place that supports our vision for Kakaako as a vibrant urban village with opportunities to live, work, play and learn," said Daniel Dinell, executive director of the HCDA.
Strong interest in Kakaako coupled with a thriving economy is likely to bring many players to the table, Dinell said, adding that the authority is looking forward to seeing the ideas that KUD or any other interested parties have to transform the community.
Over the years, there have been many visions of what Kakaako should be when it comes of age. Waterfront developers over the years have suggested everything from a Hawaiian superstar museum, an entertainment center large enough to accommodate Cirque du Soleil performances, a research office complex, a bark park, a farmer's market, a ferry terminal, a boutique hotel or a waterfront park complete with tidal pools, interactive fountains and a carousel.
Projects waxed and waned with current passions until 2003, when the state passed a proposal that allowed the authority to issue up to $40 million in bonds for the development of an ocean science center. It looked like a concept for Kakaako's waterfront was starting to take shape, but now it's back to square one as the state retools its vision.
"This is a big step forward rather than backwards," Dinell said. "If we'd stuck with the current agreement to develop just one parcel, we would have had an isolated attraction."
Wise development of Kakaako's prime waterfront lands are key to turning the industrial zone into a walkable community that boosts the state's visitor industry and accommodates the growth of new industries, Dinell said.
Since the authority and KUD committed to the project a year ago, it has become clear that Kakaako has larger potential, said James Kometani, the authority's chairman.
Development activities have gained momentum with ongoing infrastructure projects, private developments and the construction of the John A. Burns School of Medicine, due to open in March.
The University of Hawaii's nearly built medical school campus and associated facilities have generated interest because they are expected to drive development of Hawaii's young biosciences sector, Dinell said.
A rash of condo development also is taking place in Kakaako and the neighboring Ward Village retail center is getting an overhaul, he said.
In July, Victoria Ward Ltd. announced plans to replace the 15,000-square-foot Ward Village Shops and two nearby warehouses with a 160,000-square-foot retail center topped by 218 residential rental apartments. A seven-tier garage with 1,100 parking spots would also be part of the complex.
Kamehameha Schools, the state's largest private landowner, is applying for a special federal designation that would allow it to offer tax breaks to developers and other investors who are eyeing the trust's 53 acres of Kakaako land holdings.
KUD, a unit of Japan-based Kajima Corp., entered into an agreement with the state to develop Point Panic in March 2003. KUD had intended to do the overall development, arrange the financing and sell the various parts to new owner/operators, who would get ground leases from the authority.
However, the company realized last year that the project lacked clear vision, said Kip Kamoto, KUD's local representative. Kakaako's waterfront basin would best be developed as part of a master plan, he said.
Once the authority puts the project out for bid, KUD will likely reapply, Kamoto said.
"We'd be very interested. We've been working with HCDA for years," he said.
Chicago-based General Growth Properties, the owner of Ala Moana Center and Victoria Ward properties, would also like to get on board, said Jeff Dinsmore, general manager of Victoria Ward Ltd.
"If someone is interested in doing something with that area, we would be interested in talking," Dinsmore said. "We think we're the logical partner to develop retail in Kakaako; our properties are across the street."