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HCDA’s Tony Ching answers questions

On discussion: mezzanines, a school facility, and affordability

Gary Chun

If there’s one thing that the Hawaii Community Development Authority can’t be faulted for, it’s a lack of transparency. (This in light of the just-released findings of a Honolulu Star-Advertiser/Hawaii News Now poll that 54 percent of its respondents felt that its plans for Kaka‘ako redevelopment was too much and moving too quickly.)

Even at a sparsely attended early Tuesday evening community meeting at HCDA’s headquarters on Cooke Street, Executive Director Anthony Ching candidly answered questions during the “supplemental public comment session” that followed the authority’s community briefing.

The briefing was to notify those in attendance of the permit application for base zone development of a 670-square foot mezzanine in the existing building space that HCDA is located in. Ching said this is part of the landowners’ Kamehameha Schools master plan for mixed-use development and a project that will accommodate pedestrian foot traffic.

With that out of the way, and with no scheduled public testimony, Ching opened the floor to comments and questions.

But he did, however, make an announcement of a special Wednesday morning hearing that the public could attend. Several points would be looked at: one, a show-cause hearing that Kamehameha Schools would take the option of the agreement of sale to Collection LLC (an entity of the A&B Properties real estate company) to do mixed-use development on the parcel of land now occupied by the CompUSA building. The second point to be addressed at the Wednesday meeting is finding a suitable agent for the Kewalo Basin management project, to help the $20-plus million plan that will include a hundred new slips for docked boats.

Finally, a year-extension for the planning and funding of an 80-unit rental for low-income artists, with a community center on the ground floor. It would be located behind the Pacifica Honolulu condominium on Waimanu Street, between the Kaka‘ako Business Center and the Lexus dealership. It is the brainchild of kumu hula Vicky Holt Takamine of the Pa‘i Foundation, in partnership with Artspace Projects in Minneapolis.

To answer an audience member’s question, Ching did reiterate that the Kaka‘ako master plan will convert the Auahi Street throughway to be “more conducive to pedestrians and bikeways,” from South Street all the way through Ward Center, or the redubbed Ward Village, once things are complete. A landscaping plan would be part of that redevelopment.

On the question of affordable housing, Ching reminded that the private property developments had to set aside at least 20 percent of its residential units for relatively lower-income occupants and families.

The possibility of adding more schools to fill the educational needs of more families moving into the redeveloped Kaka‘ako area was addressed. He said the Department of Education Impact Fee Structure will help determine the possible development of schools. Working from the results of a 2009 environmental impact statement, Ching figures that middle and high school needs could be attended to with existing schools like nearby Central and Washington Middle Schools, and McKinley High School. Royal and Queen Ka‘ahumanu Elementary Schools are either at or near capacity, so “there will be a need to augment the needs” in that area.

Ching did say that there would be an announcement forthcoming on working on a planned 120-seat preschool-kindergarten building.