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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 10, 2006

Coming together on Kaka'ako development

By Tom Brower

People who choose to reside and own businesses in Kaka'ako deserve our support for their commitment in making our neighborhood thrive.

Kaka'ako is not an easy place to be, caught between a mixed-plate urban warehouse/condo identity. My uncle's family is a second-generation Kaka'ako auto body shop owner and had to change area locations several times due to state "planning."

With months of attention, focus and debate on Kaka'ako's future, area residents and business owners can now say with clarity that a consensus on the 670-acre development has been made. We say it is mandatory that a responsible, moral development plan include substantial open space, sufficient public parking and beach access. And ideally, no housing on state land makai of Ala Moana boulevard, especially if the state needs to sell the land for development. We must not overdevelop this area.

Though the state might allow some housing in the makai location, residents should still insist that it be placed mauka of the boulevard. In addition, we must fight for concessions to better benefit longtime Hawai'i residents for either potential housing location. Anything still can happen; it is our challenge to see that what does benefits local residents.

Also, the "People's preferred plan," by members of Save Our Kaka'ako, is thoughtful and worth incorporating into the development. The proposals for a farmers and fish market, performing arts bandstand, canoe facilities and historic Hawaiian fishing village are worth considering. Their recent presentation to the Ala Moana-Kaka'ako Neighborhood Board was an exciting moment in grassroots community planning hana hou.

Individually, regardless of whether we agree or not with the final Kaka'ako development plan, it is necessary that we embrace it during pre- and post-construction. Twenty years ago, the state Capitol and Aloha Tower Market Place were criticized for their lack of public input prior to the state choosing a developer. Arguably, both sites have shown merit and significant contributions in promoting Hawai'i's identity and sense of place. I am optimistic that Kaka'ako will "rise" to the challenge.

A better Hawai'i is not necessarily a political issue but often requires a political solution. Whether it's Waikiki Outrigger Hotel's Lewers Street improvements, choosing the Hawai'i Convention Center location or the Kaka'ako waterfront development, thoughtful planning with persistent community input is needed for the political process to be more accountable to us.

People who genuinely care about our neighborhood know that its growth is a journey, not a destination. It changes as our needs do and will ultimately reflect our commitment and energy for a better Hawai'i.

The media attention on Kaka'ako's future is the same that all neighborhoods deserve. Though to some, Kaka'ako is a route between downtown and Waikiki, to many of us it's where we work, live and are alive.

Tom Brower, a Waikiki resident for 24 years, is the former president of the Waikiki Residents Association and a member of the Waikiki Neighborhood Board. He wrote this commentary for The Advertiser.