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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, August 23, 2001

Old Post Office must keep historic integrity

The collapse a year ago of a deal to convert the historic downtown Post Office into a shopping center and galleria rescued city planners from what might have been a terrible mistake.

The proposal opened the door for major unwelcome changes in what is a historic and architecturally protected part of downtown Honolulu.

Unfortunately, city planners failed to take advantage of that reprieve and likely face the prospect of more inappropriate proposals for the site.

The U.S. Postal Service is now looking at "several" offers, reports Advertiser staff writer Andrew Gomes, from local and national developers to buy and transform the building.

The old Post Office, itself a historic landmark, is part of a "historic precinct" in the Hawai'i Capitol Special District. That district extends from the slopes of Punchbowl through the Capitol, I'olani Palace, territorial-era office buildings and on to the waterfront.

The emphasis must be on a use that will preserve the long-term architectural integrity of the graceful old building, which once housed federal courts and other federal offices as well as the post office. Use as a state office building would be fitting; the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has considered it as a site for its headquarters, which would be appropriate.

It is to be hoped that city planners will make it clear that no project will go forward if it includes options that would break the restrictions of the Capitol District. In the long run, the most successful use of this site will be one that honors the architectural traditions it represents.