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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, August 12, 2002

Kaimuki focuses on parking

The Kuo Min Tang Physical Cultural Association performs a dragon dance at the Kaimuki Kanikapila, which celebrated completion of the first phase of improvements along Wai'alae Avenue. The second phase will concentrate on parking.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

Now that the city's sprucing up of Wai'alae Avenue has created a more inviting experience for pedestrians, Kaimuki residents and city planners are looking to address the area's serious parking problem.

Architect Alan Fujimori and city civil engineer Mike Kato gave a presentation on Phase 2 of the improvement plans at the Kaimuki Neighborhood Board meeting last week. Design and construction for the $1.4 million vision project is included in the city's 2002-03 fiscal budget.

Phase 2 includes extending the pedestrian upgrades on Wai'alae another block to Wilhelmina Rise, creating a "speed table" on 12th Avenue and redesigning the large municipal parking lot between Wai'alae and Harding avenues.

The vision team has also designated $75,000 for a Kaimuki Business District Parking Master Plan that will explore other solutions, including possibly building a parking structure in the area, installing a gated system for the municipal lot and providing valet parking for shoppers.

The business district has two municipal lots with metered parking stalls. The larger lot now has 264 angled parking stalls and seven handicapped stalls divided by several one-way lanes.

Fujimori said plans include restriping the lot to add 17 more parking stalls and create four loading zones. The number of handicapped stalls would remain the same and a drop-off area for customers would be created close to the rear of shops fronting Wai'alae Avenue.

Restriping the lot into parallel stalls will allow for more parking, and changing the lanes to two-way will increase the traffic flow, he said.

Residents and merchants attending the meeting expressed concern about the location of the handicapped stalls and loading zones, asking that they be close to shops.

Parking has long been a problem for the area and is seen as a limiting factor to the revitalization of the business district. During prime times, customers can drive around in circles through the municipal parking lot without finding a vacant space. Some end up driving off in frustration.

Business owners say some customers avoid Kaimuki because of the parking problem and a solution must be found if the business community is to survive.

Fujimori said adding 17 parking stalls is not going to solve the problem, but it will help.

"The problem is, the balance of retail shops has changed," Fujimori said.

He said when the lots were built there were more retail stores in Kaimuki and now there are more restaurants. About 20 customer stalls are needed for a 1,000-square-foot restaurant while a retail store needs 3.3 to 5 stalls per 1,000 square feet, he said.

Adding to the problem is that employees use nearly a third of the parking, Fujimori said.

"Most malls do not allow any employee parking at all," he said. "We have to involve everyone in finding a solution. If the merchants are not involved, it won't work and we will have to go back to the drawing board."

Kato said the parking study will be completed before the changes in the municipal lot are made so that the efforts are coordinated.

In the meantime, the other elements of Phase 2 improvements will move forward, with the design work expected to be completed this year and construction set to begin next year.

The recently completed work on Wai'alae Avenue, with its 10-foot-wide sidewalks, cleaned-up overhead wiring and improved landscaping, will be extended to Wilhelmina Rise.

The 12th Avenue work will include an elevated concrete slab from Wai'alae to the parking lot entrance to slow traffic and continue the emphasis on making things better for pedestrians. The area will have street lights set at a lower level for walkers. The new lights will be of the "historic" style.

Trees will be planted along both sides of the avenue, which can easily be sectioned off for closure during street fairs or public events, Fujimori said.

Reach James Gonser at jgonser@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2431.