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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Chinatown parking garage to open in June

By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

The new public parking garage under the city's Smith-Beretania park project has been delayed until next month because a vendor to operate the lot has not yet been selected, according to Tim Steinberger, director of the city Department of Design and Construction.

The underground garage with 112 parking stalls was expected to open this month, bringing much-needed customer parking to struggling Chinatown businesses. Steinberger said there is also more work to be done, including installing security cameras, before the lot can open.

"We hope to have everything in place and open by early June," Steinberger said.

In September 2001, the city broke ground for the $7.6 million park, which includes the underground parking lot to replace the parking spaces that occupied the 1.35-acre parcel. The parking garage greatly increased the cost of the project, but was added by Mayor Jeremy Harris following demands by area merchants.

Reuben Wong, president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, said parking is sorely lacking in Chinatown.

"Parking used to be there and during construction all those spaces were lost," Wong said. "This will bring us back to what it was before. The sooner the better from the merchants' view."

"We want it open just as much as the business community does," said city spokeswoman Carol Costa. "As soon as we can get that contractor on board and finish up the construction it will be done."

Mike Hamasu, Colliers Monroe Friedlander research and consulting director, said a survey last year showed that downtown Honolulu has among the highest fees for parking in the nation.

The average regular daily parking rate downtown is more than $30 — third-highest in a survey of parking-garage costs in 50 major North American cities. Only midtown Manhattan, at $33.50, and Boston, at $31, had higher rates.

The report by commercial real estate firm Colliers International also ranked Honolulu at 19th priciest for unreserved monthly parking — $155 on average. Midtown Manhattan had the highest average, at $450.

"It can only help to alleviate any pent-up demand in terms of the area," Hamasu said. "There are close to 50,000 people that work within a one-mile radius of downtown, so I don't know how much of a dent that will make. But every little bit helps."

The Smith-Beretania lot will have hourly rates, but those rates have not been set yet, according to the city.

The park above the parking lot has been planned for more than 20 years and is expected to open this summer. The park is under construction, and financing for keiki play apparatus, or a tot lot, is uncertain despite money being set aside by the Downtown Neighborhood Board.

The city agreed to build the park in 1981 as part of an agreement with Charles A. Pankow Development Corp., which developed Honolulu Tower. The developer got approval to build another condominium, Honolulu Park Place. In exchange, the developer agreed to pay the city $6 million toward public underground parking, a park and community center across from Honolulu Tower.

The city spent that money on other projects.