Question: What ever happened to the Ironwoods, a Kailua condominium development that was scheduled to break ground in 2008, and which displaced several hundred lower-income renters?
Answer: The 6 1/2 -acre property mauka of Kailua District Park was cleared several years ago and has stood vacant since. An official with developer D.R. Horton said it has been working to meet environmental requirements and to place utility lines underground.
D.R. Horton could break ground in the second half of 2011, said Bob Bruhl, the company’s vice president of development.
When it bought the property in 2005, D.R. Horton was aware of an Environmental Protection Agency mandate that it close 80 large-capacity cesspools that served the walk-up apartment buildings, Bruhl said.
The EPA originally wanted the cesspools closed by April 2005, but D.R. Horton was granted an extension to 2007, allowing the apartment tenants to remain until then.
The company spent millions of dollars removing the cesspools, as well as asbestos, mercury and lead when the buildings were torn down, Bruhl said.
Bruhl said the company also offered residents of the 185 units help from brokers to relocate them.
He said that at the end of 2008, D.R. Horton decided to seek to bury the utility lines along Kailua Road.
Bruhl said the company is working with Hawaiian Electric Co. for approvals from the Public Utilities Commission to put those lines underground.
City records show the developer is in the process of obtaining some permits for the project, and that subdivision and grading permits have been approved.
Kailua Neighborhood Board member Donna Wong mourns the loss of the former apartments and wonders what could have been done to keep the residents there instead of evicting them.
"There’s reverberation throughout the community," she said. "Kailua doesn’t offer any low-income housing or worker housing.
"They do have every right — they own the property — to tear it down. It’s just a shame. It seems to be the trend all over the island. Low-cost housing seems to be the first thing to go and the last thing to be built."
Hawaii Housing Alliance Executive Director Chuck Wathen estimates that thousands of affordable living units have been lost in the last 20 years.
"We have this inventory we are losing constantly … and we can’t replace it," Wathen said.
This update was written by Leila Fujimori. Suggest a topic for "Whatever Happened To …" by writing Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4747; or e-mail email@example.com.