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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, June 19, 2001

Kapolei vision as yet unfulfilled

By Jessica Webster
Advertiser Staff Writer

Kapolei is no longer a stunted pseudo-city, but O'ahu's "Second City" still lacks cushion.

Kapolei, O'ahu's Second City, is bordered by Kalaeloa — formerly Barbers Point — to the south and the H-1 freeway to the north.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Traffic is messy. There are no recreation centers, sports bars, bowling alleys or skateboarding parks. The Zippy's and Chili's restaurants serve as fine dining. The public library is under construction, but without money for books to fill it. The high school has no gym. There are clinics, but no hospital. It's easy to find a dentist and a hair stylist, but difficult to find a manicurist.

A decade after its birth, Kapolei may be ripping at the population seams, but the community vision isn't quite there yet, according to Kapolei residents and officials.

For example, many church services are still being run out of people's garages and school cafeterias. There are only three church structures — Baptist, Catholic and Mormon — in town.

The state judiciary has yet to move to Kapolei as planned. And residents are expressing concerns about the city's discussions over expanding the landfill.

But these are typical pre-teen obstacles and challenges, says neighborhood board chairwoman Maeda Timson.

While the city's growth will not go unfettered, Timson said, she is waiting patiently for the Kapolei vision to be complete.

"I have lived here for almost 30 years, and back then, this was all sugar cane," said Timson. "Kapolei is still suffering some growing pains, but what else can we expect for a city that was actually designed and formed by what the government, people and private sector decided it should be?"

Family activities needed

Kapolei Hope Chapel pastor Rowena Ednilao said the surge of people into Kapolei is bringing requests and demands for services beyond mail and trash. Residents are now making quality-of-life demands.

"There's a range of people living in Kapolei, but it's primarily people who want a family experience, people who are looking to do things as a family for their community," said Ednilao. "We're finding that young families and couples, and especially high schoolers, are looking for events and fun things to do."

Resident Eric Loyd moved to Kapolei from Washington seven months ago. He doesn't have any qualms with the availability of government services or the schools, but like other residents, Loyd said he's still waiting for a Red Lobster, a tanning salon, more video stores and another pet retailer.

"It's a nice town, and it is growing a bit," said Loyd. "We have plenty of gas stations. I'd maybe like to see some batting cages, maybe some more community activity centers. Some actual resource centers with activities for kids and their families."

Former probation officer Lee Conley is a single father raising two boys in Kapolei, and he says he can think of very little he would change about Kapolei — except for cheaper admission prices for kama'aina to Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park.

"It's a good community where people feel safe," said Conley. "My neighbors are wonderful, and the schools are some of the best anywhere. I've been on the island 27 years, and, all in all, this is one of the best places to be."

Kapolei's high school and library are incomplete. Lawmakers budgeted $18.4 million for the new school, $3.6 million short of what the Department of Education had requested, and the Legislature wiped out $3.1 million for Kapolei's new library. The library has a building under construction — but no staff, furniture or books.

Despite this, Sen. Brian Kanno D-20th ('Ewa Beach, Makakilo, Kapolei) and Rep. Mark Moses R-42nd (Kapolei, 'Ewa Villages, Village Park) are positive about the progress of Kapolei development, and are hopeful about commercial enterprise.

"I think it's coming together," Kanno said. "It wouldn't make sense to not finish the school or the library, but I think all communities were affected by the limited amount of money statewide. The Legislature is dedicating more money to repair and maintenance of schools right now."

Moses said he thinks development is "ahead of the curve."

"I remember when we sat down and drew up the plan. People thought we were crazy," said Moses. "For me, it's hard to believe how much has happened. I think things are moving, and moving quite rapidly."

More construction planned

Moviegoers leave Kapolei Theatres after a recent show. The theater was among the first commercial buildings built in Kapolei.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Nine major construction projects valued at nearly $700 million are planned or under way in Kapolei this year. The most recent includes a master-planned community that would include 2,900 homes, an 18-hole golf course, a park and a 33-acre commercial center.

A 62,000-square-foot shopping center, and a 60,000-square-foot assisted living facility are also slated to break ground this year, in addition to a massive business park, and smaller retail outlet and office complexes.

Census data reveals that O'ahu's population is shifting into the newer areas like Kapolei. And Campbell Estate, which owns the land on which most of Kapolei is built, estimated that the population, which was 17,000 in 1990, would increase to more than 50,000 last year.

Broker Radiant Chase said his Kapolei Realty office averages 50 phone calls a day and a dozen walk-ins from people requesting more information about the city and opportunities to move.

"It's the Second City," said Chase. "The demand is very great for Kapolei because we have so much activity going on here. People are relocating for the jobs, the beautiful homes and the schools. There's not too many services that we don't have anymore.

"Nearly everyone that walks into our office asks about a sports bar, so maybe that would be a good idea to bring in."