City Plaza gets approval to become a condominium
The developers of the Hawaii City Plaza condominium tower in the Keeaumoku area have been given the go-ahead by the Honolulu City Council, despite lingering ill feelings toward the developers by some Council members and concerns by community members that the approval was rushed.
The Council voted 8-1 Wednesday to approve Resolution 17-305, giving Hawaii City Plaza LP approval for a 250-foot-high, mixed-use tower on Sheridan Street that would have 164 multifamily dwellings and commercial space. Councilman Joey Manahan voted “no.”
The developer agreed to designate 33 of the units as “affordable” rentals that will be marketed for those making no more than 30 percent of area median income for a minimum of 30 years.
The project is slated for 39,520 square feet along the Ewa side of Sheridan Street, behind the Walmart-Sam’s Club shopping complex. The area is currently home to several one- and two-story warehouses.
The Council approval allows the developer to build higher and more densely than permitted under current law. The 250foot tower is 100 feet taller than the current 150-foot limit while the 5.0 maximum floor-to-area ratio, or density, would give Hawaii City Plaza about 74,414 square feet more of developable space than now allowed for a total of 197,600 square feet.
The tower is the third, and latest, condominium tower approved for the Keeaumoku-Kapiolani area within the vicinity of the planned Ala Moana rail station. What distinguishes this project is that it’s not on Keeaumoku Street or Kapiolani Boulevard.
During a May committee meeting, Councilman Ikaika Anderson asked Hawaii City Plaza principal Jay Fang if more than half of the project’s units were sold or being marketed to investors from China providing
financial backing for the tower’s construction. Fang responded that the investors did not have a priority right or reservation to buy Hawaii City Plaza units, but also gave other answers that were vague.
Anderson said he did not think it in the best interest of the city for the Council to approve a project that would not help Honolulu residents during a housing crunch.
Several days after that May meeting, Fang and his father Johnson Fang emailed Anderson and other Council members describing Anderson’s comments as “racial remarks” that violated federal laws, and threatening to call on Chinese nationals to boycott Hawaii as a visitor destination if the project was not approved.
The Fangs have since said that many of their statements were misunderstood due to a language barrier.
Manahan questioned Fang about the email before Wednesday’s vote.
Manahan said the email contained remarks that were “rather derogatory of this body.”
Jay Fang again chalked up the remarks to “a misunderstanding.”
Manahan shot back: “I thought you communicated your grievances pretty well.”
Lloyd Yonenaka, a director with public relations firm CommPac, also sought to explain the Fangs’ earlier comments. “If you don’t have all of the vocabulary, it’s really very difficult. And we apologize profusely if anyone was offended,” he said. “The intent from the very beginning of this project is to provide something that is beneficial to the City and County of Honolulu, which is affordable housing, which is economic development, which is jobs.”
Four Oahu residents raised objections to the Council speeding up the vote for the project — Zoning Committee approval for the project was given Tuesday — but their concerns didn’t slow the approval.
A planned project for a 250-foot Hawaii City Plaza on Sheridan Street across the Keeaumoku Walmart-Sam’s Club complex won approval from the Honolulu City Council Wednesday.