From the August 9, 2002 print edition
Kakaako mix a hot topic
Plans unveiled this week for Kakaako call for
a mix of commercial, retail and residential development
to be built around the
new University of Hawaii medical center.
remain about what the proper mix should be and whether
people should be allowed to live on the makai side,
which many in the community want reserved only for public
The last time Kakaako residents were asked, they
voiced enthusiastic support for retail and commercial
development but were
solidly opposed to residential units being built on land
makai of Ala Moana Boulevard.
Those community concerns
aren't deterring the Hawaii Community Development Authority
from preparing to vote on a
development plan that includes a mix of retail, commercial
and residential for its lands along the Honolulu waterfront.
HCDA subcommittee recommended approval of the estimated
$130 million development project on 180 acres of land
makai of Ala Moana Boulevard to the HCDA board. The plan
includes residential development of between 300 and 400
"They're going to have a scrap on their hands," said
Bev Harbin, executive director, Kakaako Improvement Association.
series of "Eye on Makai" community meetings
in late 1999 showed strong consensus among residents,
and environmentalists that the makai-side oceanfront
area be kept for residents and public uses, Harbin said.
"When you start mixing public uses like parks with
a medical school and biotech research, which could be
a 24-hour industry,
and start coupling that with residential people, you'll
have a collision," Harbin said. "The consensus
was public access first,
visitors and businesses second."
A final draft of
the plan is expected in September and the board should
be prepared to vote on the project in October, said Jan
Yokota, executive director of HCDA, which owns more than
160 acres of the land.
Another reason to visit Hawaii
HCDA's plans center around an architectural "signature
icon" along the lines of the Opera House in Sydney,
Australia, with an ocean science center or technology
museum suggested as possible ideas.
"We want to create a sense of place, a place of
employment, and a key to our success is having architectural
components," said Christine Camp of Avalon Development
and a member of the HCDA board as well as the subcommittee
that devised the plan.
"We are creating another reason for people to visit
Other components include a pedestrian mall
for the Fisherman's Wharf area similar to River Walk
in San Antonio, Texas, or
Seattle's Pike Place Market, said Teney Takahashi, HCDA
director of planning and development.
Along with a residential
component, there's park space, commercial and retail
space and parking for between 2,000 and 2,500
vehicles that would be hidden behind residential and
"Any plan without residential doesn't have a soul," said
Takahashi, who said development rules must be changed
to allow for
Harbin says there's plenty of room on the mauka side
of Ala Moana for residential development and that people
who buy units
can just walk across the street to enjoy the makai-side
retail and park areas.
A separate study of Kakaako done
for Kamehameha Schools and Victoria Ward Ltd. suggested
a residential component is
needed for Kakaako Makai, Yokota said. Residential development
would require zoning changes, she said.
"We will have to have public hearings," Yokota
Medical school a development key
A retail-residential mix by itself would not be enough
to make the project financially viable, but the construction
of a new
medical school serves as the catalyst not just for the
waterfront project, but for development throughout Kakaako,
"If [the medical school] were not here, this plan
would be worthless and there would be no impetus to move
said. "Retail on its own is not enough to do it."
should move slowly with its development plans and wait
until the medical school is built, said Andrew Friedlander,
CEO, Colliers Monroe Friedlander.
The value of the surrounding
land will escalate and more appropriate uses may be found
depending on how much space is
needed to accommodate future growth of biotech companies,
"It would be an enormous mistake to move ahead
with anything until the medical school has a chance to
Friedlander said. "The land surrounding the medical
school in Kakaako Makai will become a lot more valuable
as years go on
and other uses will become apparent."
retail and residential spaces are not needed at this
time, he said.
"There's no demand right now for residential and
retail; we really have an oversupply at this time," Friedlander
He also says there's no need to build an icon-like
structure to give the area an identity, as the medical
center will suffice.
"One of the greatest medical schools in the world
located in Kakaako Makai should be our icon," Friedlander
said. "I don't
agree with an ocean science center. Everyone is building
Roadblocks to development
Several obstacles need to be overcome, including changing
zoning rules, making it easier to cross Ala Moana Boulevard,
whether to use tax-increment financing and completing
environmental cleanup of sites, including three former
Cleanup costs are included in the overall
cost, and Takahashi said there shouldn't be any surprises
environmental surveys of the area were made and officials
have a good idea of what work is needed. The state Legislature
provided about $30 million in funding, but a battle could
be brewing between the city and the state over tax-increment
financing, which would allow HCDA to keep any tax revenues
above an established base amount.
Most every other development
agency uses this type of financing, Takahashi said, with
the most successful example in San
Jose, which collects up to $1 billion a year.
is HCDA is a state agency and the city likely will be
reluctant to give up tax revenue. "The city's
ox gets gored in
this case," he said. "It's going to be an uphill
issue … but we should throw it on the table."
plan is similar to one prepared for Kamehameha Schools
and Victoria Ward for development of their areas of Kakaako.
to get across Ala Moana Boulevard remains an unsolved
obstacle. Brian Minaai, state transportation director,
his department would consider overpasses, a change from
Others said such an idea could work if
the walkway contains retail stores. Another alternative
is shuttle buses, but that can be
very expensive, said Takahashi.
The board also must decide whether to name a single
developer or multiple developers for the waterfront project.
recommended a single developer.
"This project requires a lot of coordination and it
would be easier to work with one developer," he
also would be more
comfortable for the developer."
Reach Ben DiPietro
at 955-8039 or email@example.com
Pacific Business News (Honolulu) - August 12, 2002
© 2002 American City Business Journals Inc.