Onward with Kakaako plan


POSTED: Sunday, September 13, 2009

Plans by Alexander & Baldwin for redevelopment of the Kakaako oceanside were scrapped three years ago because of public opposition. However, Kamehameha Schools' ambitious plan to transform 29 acres of Kakaako away from the sensitive waterfront deserved the clearance it received this month by the Hawaii Community Development Authority.

The authority's 10 present board members gave their unanimous endorsement of the master plan, and the trust soon will begin seeking bids to build affordable housing required as part of the development. It also includes 2,750 other residential high-rises, townhouses and lofts.

The development, announced last December, is described as a pedestrian-friendly “;urban village.”; A 5-acre Asia Pacific Research Center is to be the centerpiece of what the trust calls Kaiaula 'O Kakaako. The trust says it is close to signing Safeway for its former CompUSA space at Ala Moana and South Street.

The trust hopes to break ground within the next two years. In unveiling the plan, it stated, “;We are not immune to the current market turmoil. However, we are a perpetual trust and we take a long-term view of our properties.”;

The plan has generated some opposition, partly because of its coincidence with Chicago-based General Growth Properties' plans for redeveloping an adjacent 60 acres, including the Ward Centers, into what it also calls an “;urban village.”; That plan includes a central plaza larger than two football fields and 4,000 residences in several high-rises up to 400 feet tall. HCDA approved that plan in January.

“;The sheer number of new residents and stress on the infrastructure is a total disregard for the needs of the community,”; Anne Stevens, chairwoman of the Ala Moana Kakaako neighborhood board, argued when the Kamehameha Schools plan was announced.

The trust has stated that it has “;contributed to the $48 million in private infrastructure upgrades to allow for a large population in the district, so we know that much work has to be done.”; The Kamehameha Schools and General Growth developments will have horizons of 15 to 20 years, and the trust is confident that “;any additional infrastructure issues can be accommodated.”; Certainly, the trust can afford it.

Bob Loy of the Outdoor Circle expressed concern that the 400-feet high buildings included in the Kamehameha Schools plan along Ala Moana “;will significantly block the present mauka-makai view plane.”; The reality is that Ala Moana already has started to become a neighborhood of skyscrapers with the 44-story Nauru Tower at Piikoi Street and the twin 45-story Waterfront Towers just a block mauka of Ala Moana. But his point is well taken that vertical planning be carefully reviewed, not go unchecked.

While the sprouting of skyscrapers may get in the way of ocean views from some locations, concentration of new housing in Honolulu's central urban area and at the “;Second City”; of Kapolei is preferable to sprawl elsewhere.