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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, October 3, 2001

Smaller senior center still worries Wai'alae residents

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser East Honolulu Bureau

Despite numerous meetings and concessions, residents still are concerned about traffic from a proposed four-story senior housing center on the grounds of Star of the Sea Church.

The 251-unit independent living center, 62 skilled nursing units and 60 assisted-living units will use 7.9 acres on the Honolulu side of the church grounds.

"This is like putting a Wal-Mart in the middle of a residential neighborhood," Gerri Digmon, a member of the Wai'alae Kahala Neighborhood Board, said last week. "The traffic problem is real to us."

The Kahala Nui, as it will be called, will use Malia Street, a two-lane road that is used by residents of Wai'alae Nui, motorists trying to bypass traffic on Kalaniana'ole Highway, and those entering the church and school property.

The Kahala Senior Living Community has about 450 reservations on a priority list already, said Chuck Swanson, Kahala Senior Living Community Inc. chairman. The development needs 70 percent of the units to be sold before it can begin selling the bonds that will finance the construction, Swanson said.

Units will sell for $225,000 to $625,000.

"Parking is a problem, and we have addressed it best as we can," Swanson said. More parking stalls have been added to the planned underground parking structure, for a total of 600, he said.

The next step is for the developer to meet with the board's traffic advisory committee to work out a parking plan so that none of the employees park on the street.

The project was first proposed in 1989 when the not-for-profit agency operated as Episcopal Homes of Hawai'i. But the project stalled in 1994 after $12.4 million had been spent in planning and marketing.

State health officials have already given the senior center their approval, but for a much larger facility. The proposal has been scaled back from 309 independent-living units after concerns were raised over parking and density.

"If we don't have the project sold in a year, it probably won't go," Swanson said. "It's not economically feasible to lower the density."

Reach Suzanne Roig at 395-8831 or sroig@honoluludvertiser.com