Tall Buildings, Cheap Rent and Hawaii's Ability to Manage Development

Flickr: jdnx

A skeptical crowd gathered in the basement of the Hawaii State Capitol on Tuesday night, and it wasn’t for an after party for the The Cure.

The event drew more than 200 attendees, which was more than enough to leave standing room only in the stuffy downstairs auditorium. They were brought together by local politicians for the chance to grill the Hawaii Community Development Authority about the state’s plans for Kakaako, a 604-acre swath of Honolulu’s urban core that’s wedged between downtown and Waikiki.

State officials are in charge of redeveloping the area, and have set their own set of rules that are different from those applied elsewhere in the city.

Lately there’s been a lot of angst about Kakaako’s future, not only because Honolulu’s $5.26 billion rail line intends to slice through its midsection, but also because the latest plans call for buildings as tall as 700 feet.

By comparison, the tallest building in the state is currently the 429-foot-tall First Hawaiian Center on Bishop Street. Diamond Head, one of Oahu’s most recognizable landmarks, only has an elevation of 761 feet.

Honolulu City Council members Ann Kobayashi and Carol Fukunaga organized Tuesday’s town hall style meeting with the help of state legislators Brickwood Galuteria, Suzanne Chun Oakland, Scott Saiki, Tom Brower and Della Belatti.

They're concerned that as development ramps up in Kakaako the public is being shut out. There's also worry that HCDA hasn’t planned accordingly for the various stresses that could be put on city infrastructure, such as streets and sewer pipes.

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