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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 2, 2006

Kaka'ako group presents own plan

By Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer

A community group opposing Alexander & Baldwin Inc.'s plan to build two condominium towers, recreational facilities and commercial space on public waterfront land in Kaka'ako suggested yesterday that the state start the planning process over and find a vision with broader support.

Grassroots organization Save Our Kaka'ako Makai also promoted its own plan anchored by park space, museums, performance theaters and a "living" historic Hawaiian fishing village aimed primarily at tourists.

The Hawai'i Community Development Authority, the state agency responsible for Kaka'ako, listened yesterday to alternatives to the A&B plan but made no decision.

The agency is prohibited from considering other proposals as long as it maintains the contractual development process it started last year when it requested and received proposals from private developers to remake 36.5 acres around Kewalo Harbor.

Six development proposals were submitted, and the agency in September tentatively chose to pursue a $650 million plan from local firm Alexander & Baldwin Inc.

A&B's plan includes two condominium towers with about 630 units, park space, a hula amphitheater, farmers market, restaurants, shops and parking.

The condo sales would finance the public elements of the project at no cost to the state.

The Hawai'i Community Development Authority is discussing terms such as lease rent and land-sale price with A&B. If those details are agreed upon, it could lead to a binding development agreement in the next several months.

The development authority board, however, has the option of canceling its request for proposals and reject the plans it received. The board also can pursue other plans submitted in response to its request should A&B withdraw or fail to agree to terms.

Daniel Dinell, agency executive director, said he couldn't speculate what the authority board will do.

"The authority is going to weigh the public input received ... before a decision is made," he said.

Dinell said the agency agreed to hear more about the Save Our Kaka'ako Makai plan as a form of "constructive public criticism."

"There is such great public interest that the board should not discourage ... public input," he said, emphasizing that the board cannot proceed with the Save Our Kaka'ako Makai plan or any other plan not submitted under terms of last year's request for proposals.

Nancy Hedlund, an Ala Moana-Kaka'ako Neighborhood Board member, said part of the reason for promoting the grassroots plan is to demonstrate that desirable public improvements can be built without selling state land for high-priced condos.

"There are viable alternatives," she said.

The Save Our Kaka'ako Makai plan proposes to roughly double the size of Kaka'ako Waterfront Park toward Point Panic and mauka of the Children's Discovery Center.

Other public elements of the plan include a bandstand, community center, performing arts center, fish and farmers market, canoe halau and parking.

Commercial components in the plan include a surfing museum, canoe-building exhibit, food and gift shops, performance theaters and a living depiction of a Hawaiian fishing village with a stream, fish pond, heiau and performance areas.

Save Our Kaka'ako Makai estimates the cost of the project at $70 million, plus $13.5 million a year to operate. The plan assumes that after four years, commercial rent and attendance of 2,500 people a day spending an average of $40 each would generate annual net income of $24 million.

Financing is to come from government grants, nonprofit organizations, private donations and state and city coffers.

"This is a viable project we believe, both financially and functionally," said Save Our Kaka'ako Makai member Mich-elle Matson.

Lawrence Chun, a retired state transportation official who served on the state Land Use Commission, commended Save Our Kaka'ako Makai for being a well-intentioned group but questioned the viability of the plan he called too simplistic in its financial forecast.

Chuck Pearson, an engineer, said he supported the agency's desire to see homes as part of the project, but preferred to see midrise rentals as opposed to luxury high-rise condos.

Honolulu architect Charles Palumbo submitted his own rough plan and drawings for the area including a fishing village, aquarium, business hotel, park space, performing arts center, restaurants, shops and mid-priced hig h-rise homes.

"It is now up to (the agency) and the people of Honolulu to work together toward a common-sense plan that will make Kaka'ako the crown jewel of Honolulu and for Honolulu's people," Palumbo said in his submission.

Reach Andrew Gomes at agomes@honoluluadvertiser.com.