Kal­ihi’s 21st Cen­tury Trans­for­ma­tion

MidWeek (Hawaii) - - Front Page - IS­LAND MAT­TERS

Ear­lier this Au­gust, the state un­veiled a com­pre­hen­sive vi­sion for Kal­ihi. Cre­ated through a com­mu­nity-based process, dubbed the Kal­ihi 21st Cen­tury Trans­for­ma­tion Ini­tia­tive, Gov. David Ige pro­claimed a num­ber of pri­or­i­ties, in­clud­ing eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment; af­ford­able hous­ing; en­sur­ing the safety, health and well-be­ing of cur­rent and fu­ture res­i­dents; cre­at­ing open spa­ces; de­vel­op­ing the in­fra­struc­ture; and pre­serv­ing pride and cul­ture in an iconic district of Honolulu.

This laser-like fo­cus on Kal­ihi is way over­due given the long­time neg­li­gence of an area of our ur­ban core that is home to many lo­cal work­ing-class res­i­dents, im­mi­grant groups, scores of busi­nesses, schools, pub­lic works and more.

I grew up in Kal­ihi and have al­ways sup­ported and ap­plauded those who har­bor a strong de­sire to help re­vi­tal­ize the com­mu­nity. When I be­came Honolulu mayor, one project we ini­ti­ated was the Taste of Kal­ihi, in which the city joined with the Filipino Cham­ber of Com­merce to show­case busi­nesses and draw at­ten­tion to the chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties in the area.

The cen­ter­piece through the past 10 years has al­ways been rail tran­sit, be­cause we saw the se­lected route along Dilling­ham Boule­vard, with stops at the Mid­dle Street tran­sit cen­ter and Honolulu Com­mu­nity Col­lege, as the cat­a­lyst for tran­sit-ori­ented de­vel­op­ment in a part of Honolulu long in need of re­ju­ve­na­tion.

With rail mov­ing for­ward, the state’s plan cap­i­tal­izes on the an­tic­i­pated tran­sit-ori­ented de­vel­op­ment and the like­li­hood of re­lo­cat­ing the 16-acre - tional Cen­ter. It will em­pha­size state-owned prop­erty in the Kal­ihi-Dilling­ham cor­ri­dor, which in­cludes the pri­son, schools and pub­lic hous­ing, as well as other pub­lic lands.

I would hope that we would see the emer­gence of a P-3 (pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship) de­vel­op­ment scheme that could bol­ster pri­vate in­vest­ment which would cap­i­tal­ize on the ben­e­fits of rail op­er­at­ing through Kal­ihi, with HART play­ing a lead­ing role with state and county gov­ern­ment in­volve­ment and com- mu­nity par­tic­i­pa­tion.

If planned and ex­e­cuted prop­erly, a P-3 could breathe new life and bring hope for a bet­ter fu­ture for Kal­ihi.

But real­iz­ing Kal­ihi’s po­ten­tial will re­quire deft, de­ci­sive lead­er­ship if we are to avoid re­peat­ing the mis­cues and mis­steps of other over­hyped ur­ban re­de­vel­op­ment ef­forts.

You will re­call that the state when it cre­ated its blue­print for the district more than 30 years ago. Scores of busi­nesses moved or were evicted to make way for a brand-new, mas­ter-planned com­mu­nity of apart­ments and busi­ness - ko con­sisted of va­cant lots for decades while the state waited for de­vel­op­ers and busi­nesses to in­vest. De­vel - to a stronger econ­omy, and largely due, I would ar­gue, to the rail project that will link - ban Honolulu.

Un­for­tu­nately, with the ex­cep­tion of a few state-owned af­ford­able hous­ing projects, zero for more and more ex­pen­sive lux­ury con­do­mini­ums that are hardly af­ford­able ex­pe­ri­ence can­not be repli- cated in Kal­ihi.

Now, I don’t fore­see the same t hing hap­pen­ing i n Kal­ihi, but strong lead­er­ship will be re­quired to stay on point. Too much can hap­pen in the in­ter­ven­ing years as state and city ad­min­is­tra­tions some­times change, pri­or­i­ties ebbs and flows, economies shift and change, and the ac­cep­tance of the sta­tus quo is the path of least re­sis­tance.

Let’s hope that this am­bi­tious plan for Kal­ihi does take off, so that in a few years from now, it does not re­main just “a vi­sion thing.”

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