Editorial | Our View Visions of new Kakaako promising and perilous By Cynthia Oi March 15, 2012 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. Dressed in black, semi-baggy shorts and a crisp white short-sleeve shirt, the young man sheepishly directed motorists through an 8-foot-wide puddle of brown water stretching like a moat across the entry to the parking area for a small cafe. Stepping back from ripples that lapped at his jogging shoes, he grinned when a customer commented on the “nice water feature” days of rain had created along Queen Street, one of the main roads through the heart of Kakaako. The cafe is a comparatively new business in a district long occupied by auto repair shops, food distribution warehouses, appliance parts dealers, tools and plumbing supply outlets and other rugged industrial operations. Its hip vibe and latte Wi-Fi offerings ill match surrounding glass replacement, air-conditioning and other nail-griming services. But if redevelopment of the district goes as political leaders and captains of commerce plan, the cafe could eventually boast of being an independent pioneer in a shiny borough of Honolulu. Parts of Kakaako — which spans the 600 or so acres between Piikoi and Punchbowl, King and Ala Moana and the makai waterfront — have already gotten a makeover, largely through retail developer General Growth Properties’ Ward shopping and entertainment destinations. Luxury condo high-rises that have popped up here and there over the years will soon have lofty neighbors as landowners emerge from economic hibernation in hopes of a spring of renewed profits. The inconsistent facelifts lend the district a split personality. Diamond Head of Ward Avenue, its all cream, peach and teal new, landscaped with coconut trees and tropical-style ground cover along clean sidewalks and nicely paved streets. Cross Ward and abruptly, two-story warehouses sided in aluminum and nondescript cinder block buildings in fading pinks and yellowish beiges lean over pitted asphalt roads. In between, a few Quonset huts, and wooden cottages that were once homes for the blue-collar workers who walked a few blocks to the ironworks plant or to fishing boats across Ala Moana linger as remnants of an earlier time. In the distance gleam the blue-glass and bronze towers of downtown. Like his predecessors at the state Capitol, Gov. Neil Abercrombie has visions of joining the disparate facets, creating an urban sweep from the tourist territory of Waikiki to the city’s center. Building skyward in Kakaako, the governor says, will lessen development elsewhere on Oahu, a suspect concept as his administration continues to support development elsewhere. Still, redeveloping Kakaako can help alleviate and redirect housing demand. But while opulent condos can be part of the mix, redevelopment ought to contain enough room for a spectrum of economies and incomes. Owners of businesses like auto repair shops worry they will be put out with no place to go and need consideration because they supply needed services and revenue as well. Independent merchants and enterprises should be participants in directing Kakaako’s future and should not be smothered by national and global ventures. As to the governor’s proposed 650-foot-tall “landmark”? Unless it is meant to be a memorial to lost views, the idea should be scrapped. ——— Cynthia Oi can be reached at email@example.com. Previous Story Best government is an open one Next Story Roy K. Amemiya Jr.