Ward development aired


POSTED: Thursday, October 16, 2008

From small-business owners to residents, construction workers, surfers and park users - dozens showed up last night to air their views on General Growth Properties' Ward Neighborhood Master Plan.

There were people both in support and opposition to the plan, which demolishes most of the existing buildings at Ward over the next 20-plus years, transforming the skyline with up to 4,300 more residential units in the form of mid- and high-rises throughout the 60-acre neighborhood.

The Hawaii Community Development Authority, the agency overseeing the redevelopment of Kakaako, fielded the comments at a public hearing last night, and has until Feb. 1 to make a decision.

By then the HCDA either can approve or disapprove the master plan or approve it with conditions, according to Executive Director Anthony Ching. If HCDA takes no action, the plan is automatically approved.

A group calling itself the Kakaako Coalition held a rally at Sheridan Community Park an hour and a half before yesterday's public hearing.

Carrying signs and wearing red T-shirts, the group's position was that HCDA should require an environmental impact statement and traffic study before considering approval of the plan.

Jim Frierson, spokesman for the group, said a plan of General Growth's magnitude should be properly evaluated.

“;This is a major concern for those of us who live, work and play in Kakaako,”; Frierson said. “;The question (regarding new high-rises) is, How high, how many, and what is the spacing and orientation?”;

Many stakeholders were concerned as well about preserving open space and view planes, which could be blocked by high-rises along Ala Moana.

In addition, Frierson said, the neighborhood needs more affordable housing and fewer upscale projects targeting second-home owners.

General Growth is planning a mix of townhomes, lofts and mid- and high-rise buildings, according to Jan Yokota, vice president of development. Twenty percent - or about 860 units - will be set aside at more affordable price ranges.

General Growth also projected the plan would create 33,570 jobs and total tax revenue of about $650 million during construction.

The Pacific Resource Partnership, which represents the state's union carpenters, and the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii supported the project because of the jobs it would bring.

HCDA's five-member committee will take the public comments, analyze them and present its findings at the next authority meeting in November, with a decision scheduled for Dec. 3.