Kaimuki seeks solutions for its parking crunch
By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer
The city spent $2.6 million last year to improve sidewalks and landscaping and bury overhead wiring on Wai'alae Avenue in Kaimuki, but inadequate parking remains the major stumbling block to bringing real prosperity to an area that has been suffering for decades.
WHAT: A public meeting to discuss solutions to parking problems in Kaimuki. WHEN: 8 a.m. tomorrow. WHERE: Lili'uokalani Elementary School cafeteria. PARKING: In the school's Koko Head lot only (enter from Koko Head near Wai'alae). INFORMATION: Call the Greater East Honolulu Community Alliance at 737-7487.
At a glance
WHAT: A public meeting to discuss solutions to parking problems in Kaimuki.
WHEN: 8 a.m. tomorrow.
WHERE: Lili'uokalani Elementary School cafeteria.
PARKING: In the school's Koko Head lot only (enter from Koko Head near Wai'alae).
INFORMATION: Call the Greater East Honolulu Community Alliance at 737-7487.
The master plan is financed by $75,000 in city vision money and will look into possibilities for increasing parking including a parking structure, restriping the municipal lots and creating a valet service.
Ginny Meade, a member of the Greater East Honolulu Community Alliance, said community input and participation are essential.
"The parking lots were built for the businesses that existed in 1959," Meade said. "That is what it conforms to, and obviously our mix has changed. We've already discussed a lot of the problems during our talk story gatherings almost two years ago. What we want now is to move forward with positive stuff. We know there will not be one solution; it will probably be a combination of solutions."
The Kaimuki business district has suffered since the 1960s when the expanded H-1 Freeway allowed people to bypass Wai'alae Avenue. Many former anchor stores closed, leaving small businesses struggling to survive.
The city's spending last year was intended to help by making the area more attractive and pedestrian-friendly.
Today, restaurants, shops and offices are packed tightly along Wai'alae Avenue.
The business district has two municipal lots with metered parking stalls between Wai'alae and Harding avenues. The lots have a five-hour limit. During lunch and dinner hours parking is hard to find. A plan to restripe the lots was put on hold until the master plan is completed.
D.J. Colbert, owner of Prosperity Corner on 12th Avenue, said her customers complain about parking all the time and the effort to beautify Wai'alae Avenue will be wasted if something isn't done soon to ease the crunch.
"We've been talking about this for three years and I'm getting desperate," Colbert said. "The holidays are coming, and what are we going to do to make it more appealing for customers to come and shop?"
Colbert gives out gift certificates for other Kaimuki businesses as incentives to her employees who don't drive to work. A few businesses are thinking of forming their own valet service for the holidays.
"If people can't get to us and park here, they can't spend," Colbert said.
Michael Abe, chairman of the Kaimuki Neighborhood Board, said it's time for a decision to be made on parking.
"Most people agree that there's not enough parking, but some are concerned that adding more parking will bring unwanted change, including attracting homeless and drug dealers," Abe said. "Some of the small tenants are worried that their lease rents could increase, and property owners are worried that they may have to pay more for the improvements.
"There's a lot of opinions, interest, objections; a lot of creative ideas out there. Now, maybe it's time to make a decision."
Staff writer Mike Leidemann contributed to this report. Reach James Gonser at firstname.lastname@example.org or 535-2431.