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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, May 24, 2002

Financing set for Queen St. improvements

By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

Betting on burgeoning growth in Kaka'ako, the Legislature has appropriated $6.5 million to improve an extended Queen Street and $10 million to ready the waterfront area for more development.

The Queen Street improvements will take place between Ward Avenue and Kamake'e Street, in anticipation of increased traffic generated by the extension of Queen from its present dead end at Kamake'e to a new connection with Waimanu Street.

The Hawaii Community Development Authority on May 1 approved the Queen extension, expected to begin in September and be completed in about 18 months.

The authority had asked for $20 million for waterfront area road and utility improvements, but in view of the tight state budget, the agency was happy to get half, executive director Jan S. Yokota said this week.

Extending Queen Street toward Ala Moana Center from its dead end at Kamake'e Street will provide a pleasant link for walkers and drivers alike between two thriving retail areas, Yokota said.

It will also offer another route from downtown to Ala Moana Center, in addition to Kapi'olani and Ala Moana boulevards.

The Queen Street extension will swing mauka to connect with Waimanu Street.

Two parks, totaling 109,000 square feet on both sides of Queen, are to be completed when the extension is finished in March 2004.

The idea, Yokota said, is to develop a neighborhood park with walkways and benches for relaxation.

Significantly, no parking stalls are planned for the park site, but wide sidewalks will link existing and future residential towers with the surrounding commercial areas.

First phase park work, on 90,000 square feet of land, will cost an estimated $1.8 million, with money provided by fees paid by land developers for public facilities.

Less dramatic, but vital to the authority's plans for the waterfront area, is the $10 million worth of road and sewer and utility work makai of Ala Moana on streets leading toward the water, Yokota said.

"It's hard to market sites if the infrastructure isn't in," she said.

She said the fact that work was being done to improve Ilalo Street facilitated University of Hawai'i plans to launch construction of the first, $150 million phase of a Health and Wellness Center this fall, with completion in June 2005.

The construction of the John A. Burns School of Medicine and the Biomedical Research Center on land now occupied by food wholesalers' warehouses is also an example of the returns that the Legislature can reap from investments in infrastructure, Yokota said.

Dr. Edwin Cadman, med school dean, has estimated that with enough lab space, the school, Cancer Center and Biomedical Research Center on the new campus could win $56 million in research grants and add 1,100 permanent jobs.

About $6 million of the waterfront area money will be spent on 'Ahui Street, a potholed lane currently lined with city refuse trucks, Yokota said.

The rest will be used to reroute 'Ohe Street to the diamondhead side of the $15 million Hawaii Children's Discovery Center so that the center and any future museum or other public attraction facilities nearby can connect directly to the broad "public green" at the heart of Kaka'ako makai, she said.

Eventually, the authority plans to enhance that central green area by flip-flopping the existing grass amphitheater and a parking area.

The authority already has spent about $3.7 million for the Kewalo Basin Park, completed in 1991; $21 million for the waterfront park opened in 1994; $3.2 million for the second phase of Kewalo Basin Park in 1995; $8 million to extend Ward Avenue into the area in 2000; $4.5 million on the gateway park area leading makai from Ala Moana Boulevard completed in 2001; and almost $21 million on Ilalo Street work being completed this year.

A $10 million appropriation from the Legislature last year is being spent this year on improvements to Forrest Avenue (an extension of South Street), and some on 'Ahui.

Yokota said the authority needs another $15 million for the amphitheater swap and more infrastructure improvements, including strengthening the Kewalo Basin shoreline for eventual waterfront retail development, and improving Olomehani Street.

Reach Walter Wright at wwright@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8054.