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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A slum whose better days may lie ahead

Kūhiō Park Terrace has had such a long, dreary history KPT has become a code word for urban slum that it's hard to believe this low-income housing project is on the brink of a new beginning.

Here is one hopeful sign: The state has issued a $1.7 million planning and design loan to Michaels Development Co. Hawai'i Public Housing Authority has formally selected this company for a massive rehabilitation project of the Kalihi complex, which encompasses KPT and the low-rise Kūhiō Homes units.

It's the closest the HPHA has come to turning the page on the project's sorry history of disrepair dysfunctional elevators, fire code violations, broken garbage chutes, the list goes on and on.

That history includes a dizzying series of turnovers at the top, instability that didn't help matters. At the start of the month, HPHA's latest director Denise Wise, fresh from a similar post in Colorado started work. The agency believes Wise can help guide the $316 million redevelopment to include a mix of market- and subsidized-priced homes.

But her job also demands that she keep clear lines of communication with the tenants; they still need basic repairs done while waiting for the permanent fixes. Some of the groundwork is newly in place, with the reorganization of the tenant association.

Wise, and the authority board, should work with tenants on a fair plan to transition qualified tenants out to other units during construction and then back in. And they need to draw up a firm contract with the developer, who has pledged to replace each tenant's home, holding them accountable to that promise.