Thursday, January 25, 2001
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Posted on: Thursday, January 25, 2001

Skeptics hear Kunia center presentation

By James Gonser
Advertiser Central Bureau

WAIPAHU — The pros and cons of a proposed 41-acre shopping center in Royal Kunia were vetted at a community vision meeting last night at Hoaeae Community Park.

Hearing set

The City Council will hear HRT Ltd.’s zoning change request for its proposed Waipahu shopping center during a public meeting at 9:15 a.m. Feb. 21 at Ho-nolulu Hale.

About 70 people heard a presentation by landowners HRT Ltd., Honolulu Ltd. and 300 Corporation, who want to build a Kahala Mall-sized shopping center at the vacant Kunia Road site and are seeking a change in zoning from limited industrial use to neighborhood business district.

The proposed shopping center would have 396,000 square feet of floor space and include two large anchor tenants, a supermarket, drug store, entertainment center with theaters, bowling alley and arcade, as well as financial and medical offices at the Royal Kunia Phase II site.

The center’s opponents say it will hurt the already struggling businesses in nearby Waipahu and worsen traffic.

Developers representative Keith Kurahashi gave a presentation on the project and said, "A big part of the success of a business is to offer good quality and value. They (Waipahu businesses) are having trouble now and need to offer something unique to attract customers."

Some Waipahu merchants say business has suffered since Safeway closed its store Nov. 30 and many already were reeling from the opening of the Waikele outlet mall in 1995.

City Councilman Gary Okino said the shopping center does not fit the community. "Something like this will kill off businesses in Waipahu," he said. "This was not planned for this community."

But supporters said the center is needed in the growing Royal Kunia area.

Architect Lloyd Sueda said, "We are not going to put Waipahu out of business. We did a market study, and if and when the center is needed, it will be built. That could be five or 10 years from now."

Maureen Andrade, vice president of the Village Park Community Association, asked with so many businesses struggling to stay alive, why build a big new center so close by?

"We had theaters and bowling alleys in Waipahu and it all died," Andrade said. "Safeway is gone, we’ve got empty spaces there. We’ve empty spaces up in Village Park by Times. We should be supporting the businesses we already have.

"I was born and raised in Waipahu. My dad was a plantation worker and a businessman in Waipahu. We are trying so hard to revitalize this community. Why build this mall up there when we can put things into Waipahu? We have the infrastructure, all we have to do is work at it."

The community also discussed a planned Village Park Connector Road to join Village Park with the core of Waipahu.

The new road would follow an old cane haul road and run under the H-1 Freeway between Kupuna Loop and Loaa Street.

Residents must drive along Kunia Road to Kamehameha Highway to get into Waipahu. The two-lane road would have street lights and include a bike path/pedestrian walkway.

"It will make it easier for Village Park people to come into the town core without having to fight the traffic on Kunia Road and wait through all those lights," said Darrlyn Bunda, executive director of the Waipahu Community Association.

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