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

Bigwigs can't see Kaka'ako fine as is

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer

Everybody has big plans for the Kakaako waterfront these days. The governor wants to build his aquarium there. A dean wants to relocate the University of Hawaii Medical School there. The Bishop Museum hopes to build its new science center there. An entrepreneur envisions a huge cultural center there.

Why can’t they just leave well enough alone?

As it is now, the Kakaako waterfront is a wonderful place, truly the last great open space in urban Honolulu.

It’s a place to take a plate lunch and a nap. It’s a place to take a stroll or a stroller. It’s a place to cast a line and catch a few rays. It’s probably the single best place in Honolulu to watch the panorama of Honolulu life unfold before you at a leisurely pace, the way way life was meant to be lived.

On any given day, there you can see a few kids Rollerblading up and down the paths. You can see a couple of lovers cuddling up, anticipating the sunset. You can find a few bodysurfers checking out the lineup at the wonderfully named Point Panic.

All that and plenty of free parking, too.

So what do our movers and shakers around town want to do there? Build, of course.

To our power brokers, a park can’t just be a place of recreation and relaxation. It’s got to be a development, a destination. They see the open space and want to fill it. They see a park and think parking lot. They see all that greenery, and it reminds them of money to be made.

"It’s underused," they say. "We need attractions to bring people into the park."

As if the wide-open green spaces, rolling hills, fantastic views and spectacular waterfront promenade weren’t all attractions enough.

So, one right after another, new attractions are being proposed. Big, hulking attractions that are anchored in concrete and sustained by admission fees or development rights.

The governor wants to plant his legacy there. The UH dean wants to leave his mark there. The museum wants to find its financial stability there. The entrepreneur wants — well, he wants to make his money there.

On their own, maybe they are all good ideas, well-reasoned and thought out. But taken together, they sound like a conspiracy to convert our last great open space into a tech park campus or maybe a Knotts Berry Farm by the sea.

When all the development is finished, you have to wonder whether any room will be left over for the lovers, the sunsets and the kids of all ages who like to slide down the grassy hills on their cardboard boxes.

Why can’t they leave well enough alone?

Mike Leidemann’s column appears Thursdays and Saturdays in The Advertiser. He can be reached by phone (525-5460) or e-mail (

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