Kalihi’s 21st Century Transformation
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.”