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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, January 9, 2005

Job hopes rising in Kapolei

 •  Kapolei development

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer

Rod Javier, a Navy chef, moved into his new Kapolei Kai home a few months ago and says he enjoys the daily commute to Pearl Harbor.

The Kapolei Hale civic center is half empty, with only about 100 jobs there, including those with Satellite City Hall. Councilman Todd Apo says there is optimism, even though the number of government jobs in Kapolei hasn't developed as quickly as expected.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

Still, Javier looks forward to the day when he and his wife can both find jobs closer to home.

"There's not a whole lot of jobs out this way right now, but there's a lot of potential," Javier said.

Like Javier, many residents and officials hope the election of Mayor Mufi Hannemann — who says he will work out of the city's Kapolei offices at least one day a week — will accelerate the creation of more business and government jobs in the area, long planned to be O'ahu's "Second City."

When the city of Kapolei was first envisioned about 15 years ago, officials expected more than 5,000 government jobs to be created or relocated there by 2020. So far, only about 1,500 government jobs have materialized, while thousands of homes have been built nearby, leading some to say Kapolei is more like the "second suburb."

"There's no question that the number of government jobs in the area didn't develop as fast as we hoped or expected," said City Councilman Todd Apo, who represents the area. "I think we're coming around the corner, though, and the mayor's desire to have a presence there is a big part of what's needed."

Kakuhihewa, the state's office building in Kapolei, has been filled with more than 1,000 state jobs that have been created in or moved there.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

In addition to Hannemann's election, officials are encouraged by the state's push last week to develop a new $95 million family court and youth detention complex on a 13.5-acre site in the city center that has been reserved for the judiciary.

The new court center could add up to 600 government jobs in the area as well as hundreds of related private jobs, but only if work can begin soon, officials said.

Without a contract in place by the end of next year, the judiciary could lose its option to use the land, pushing back development at least 10 years, Thomas Keller, the judiciary's administrative director for courts, told lawmakers last week.

More than 1,000 state jobs have been created in or moved to the Kapolei area, filling a state office building that opened in 1998 and requiring officials to lease private office space for other government agencies, said Theresia McMurdo, a spokesman for landowner Campbell Estate, which is developing the area.

In addition, the state has opened three schools and a library to serve area residents. Three other land parcels in the Kapolei urban core are reserved for state use, but there are no immediate plans to develop them.

Kapolei Hale is half empty, but officials hope that will change with Mayor Hannemann's push to expand the city's presence in the area.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

The city, on the other hand, has only about 100 jobs in its half-empty Kapolei Hale civic center, plus about 80 workers in a new police station. Officials hope that will change with Hannemann's push to expand the city's presence in the area, where several land parcels are reserved for future city use.

Randy Perreira, deputy director of the Hawai'i Government Employees Association, said some union members who initially resisted the move to Kapolei are now accepting the change.

"It depends on one's perspective. For those who live in the area, it fits fine," he said. "For the ones who have to drive further, it's an inconvenience, but they've come to accept it, even if they aren't completely happy."

Perreira said HGEA will support moving more services to Kapolei as the area develops.

"It's a concept we support. If people can live near where they work, it takes more people off the road. That makes everybody happy," he said.

Kapolei's numbers are growing

600 — businesses in the region

15,000 — jobs in the region

24,000 — homes

27,000 — number of homes expected by 2010

70,000 — approximate population

100,700 — projected population in 2020

$62,340 — median household income in 2001

$259,208 — median new-home price in mid-2004

One big concern remains that the area hasn't developed a dense urban center.

"Right now there's a perception that the area is still mostly suburban, but the land still exists for true urbanization," Apo said.

"I believe the government is going to be a big part in making that change. The city needs to provide more services and contacts for those of us out here. Right now, you can see the city parking lot full most of the time, so you know there's a public demand for more services."

Hannemann has not yet announced any specific plans to move more jobs to the Kapolei center, press secretary Bill Brennan said.

However, the latest projections by the city's Department of Planning and Permitting call for more than 5,200 government jobs to be there by 2030.

The number could increase even more if the Navy goes ahead with plans to relocate an aircraft carrier group to nearby Kalaeloa, officials said.

Javier, who spent his teenage years in Kalaeloa, said that's the type of dynamic growth that attracted him to Kapolei in the first place.

"You can see it's an up-and-coming city, a growing community. We were looking for a place with a lot of room to grow and where we would be setting the roots of the community to come. There's still some growing pains, but I'm really happy about the area."

Reach Mike Leidemann at 525-5460 or mleidemann@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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