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Sweep, shine and scour

$137 million in public and private funds is being spent to clean up the city before November

By Allison Schaefers

LAST UPDATED: 7:09 p.m. HST, Oct 20, 2011

Forget the red-carpet treatment. A more than $137 million makeover of Oahu's transportation and tourism infrastructure has turned the coming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting into more of a blacktop affair.

Hawaii plans to roll out freshly paved highways, colorful landscaping and improved hotels and shopping centers when the first of the roughly 20,000 APEC attendees, including President Barack Obama and 20 other world leaders, begin arriving three months from now. The event, which is expected to boost Hawaii's economy by $120 million, could bring even greater benefits after attendees return home with good impressions of Hawaii, said Peter Ho, chairman of APEC's Hawaii Host Committee.

"Our intent is that they leave here with a good experience, and I think that's going to happen," Ho said. "We have the visitor infrastructure and the hospitality knowledge."

A host of projects also will freshen up Oahu, especially in Waikiki and the airport corridor, he said. These public and privately funded jobs were planned before the announcement that Hawaii would host the APEC Leader's Meeting from Nov. 7 to 13, Ho said. However, some were accelerated for the high-level global event, which returns to the United States for the first time since 1993, he said.

"One of the short-term impacts of APEC is that we get somewhat of a face lift in the airport and the Nimitz corridor into Waikiki," Ho said. "While a lot of the infrastructure is really a fast-tracking of things that were intended to be done to begin with, candidly, it will all make a difference. Obviously, whatever we can do to better the environment for Leader's Week is a good thing."

Infrastructure and capital improvements are common pre-APEC concerns among host cities. Leaders in Vladivostok, Russia, which will host the 2012 APEC Leader's Meeting, are already preparing for the hand-off from Hawaii. Indonesian leaders also have pushed improvements in advance of the 2013 APEC Leader's Meeting. At least two projects have been discussed, including a toll road and a $280 million convention center, the Jakarta Post reported.

Since Waikiki is a developed tourist destination, it has escaped some of the massive public infrastructure costs incurred by other APEC host cities. Still, there are plenty of federal, state, city and private projects underway on Oahu. And the Hawai‘i Convention Center will undergo repair and maintenance and could be reconfigured to accommodate State Department needs.

"The work is a normal part of the duties to keep the center in the quality that our clients expect," said Randall Tanaka, assistant general manager of the Hawai‘i Convention Center and a member of Hawaii's APEC host committee. Tanaka said the State Department has contracted Lanham, Md.-based Hargrove Inc. to build offices if necessary for APEC and special lighting or rigging at the center.

"The effort for a modern, efficient, safe, clean and culturally rewarding experience is all part of the total experience, not only for APEC, but for our future business," Tankas said.

Deadlines are looming for at least $42.79 million in state Department of Transportation projects, including:

» Four projects totaling $7.1 million to improve the international arrivals area at Honolulu Airport.

» The $1.29 million Nimitz Highway beautification will wrap up this month, adding palm trees, grass and low-maintenance irrigation systems to a 1.25-mile stretch between Sand Island Access Road and Alakawa Street.

» In September a portion of a $34.4 million Nimitz Highway-Ala Moana Boulevard makeover is expected to conclude, visually improving the highway from Kalakaua Avenue to Queen Street near Ward Centre.

"Each of these projects will be completed before November, although none of them were designed specifically for the APEC conference," said transportation spokesman Derek Inoshita.

At least $20.5 million worth of city projects also are in the works. They include:

» A $7.55 million sewer project to rehabilitate aging sewer mains and manholes between Keawe Street and Ward Avenue before September.

» A $7 million Waikiki repaving project, which will conclude this month, to reduce or eliminate uneven road surfaces and potholes.

» A $5.5 million-plus Waikiki sidewalk improvement project intended to improve the streetscape and create more access for disabled people from Saratoga Road to the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa by October.

Waikiki businesses, which contributed to the city project, had been planning to improve sidewalks and add greenery for some time, said Rick Egged, president of the Waikiki Improvement Association. However, they accelerated the project's first phase for APEC, Egged said. "APEC is a good catalyst," he said. "We haven't had this kind of an upgrade since about 1988."

Waikiki's red-brick paving had reached its expiration date and was starting to become a safety concern, Egged said.

The city also plans to reglaze the Dillingham Fountain near the Elks Club in Waikiki, making it operative by November. In addition, workers plan to inspect Waikiki street lights and install four security cameras in higher-crime areas.

At least $74 million worth of private hotel projects also are underway, including:

» A $16 million renovation at the Double Tree by Hilton Alana Waikiki.

» A portion of a $13 million transformation at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa, expected to be finished by October.

» A $45 million renovation at Hilton Hawaiian Village's Rainbow Tower. Although the entire project will not finish by APEC, much of the tower will be ready to host the event's high-profile guests.

"APEC is one of those great lines in the sand for Waikiki. Hotel projects would have been done regardless of APEC, but we all see that it's advantageous to get them done before," said Jerry Westenhaver, Hyatt Regency general manager.

An improved product is good news for tourism, business and government leaders who want to see this long-term leisure destination positioned among top international business destinations, said David Carey, president and chief executive officer of Outrigger Enterprises.

"This is an unprecedented opportunity for Hawaii to prove that it is an ideal place for serious businesses and high-level meetings," Carey said.

And, it's welcome news for the Waikiki residents and visitors who have tolerated months of construction noise and dust, obstructed views and sluggish traffic.

Emma and Grant Otsuki, visiting Waikiki from Toronto, were good sports last week when getting through a construction zone stretching from Saratoga Road to Duke's Lane with their 8-month-old son, Elliott.

"It was a bit of an impediment for the stroller in the places where there weren't protective barriers," said Grant Otsuki, "but it's OK. We're enjoying Hawaii."

Completing projects before APEC should be a community priority, said Waikiki Neighborhood Board member Les Among.

"The construction on Ala Moana road looks like a mess," Among said. "There's a lot of work to do in such a little time before APEC comes to town."

But once the work is done, "it will be very nice," said part-time Waikiki resident Gary Phillips, who along with his wife, Linda, dodged work crews Friday to get to Kalakaua Avenue via Seaside Avenue.


Click on the images to enlarge.




Click on the images to enlarge.


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