Nearby residents of Ala Moana Center are fighting a plan to begin overnight construction on a $572 million redevelopment of the Ewa end of the state’s largest shopping mall.
The center, which is owned by General Growth Properties Inc., has begun building four more levels on top of the existing four-story mauka-Ewa parking structure parallel to Kona Street and demolishing the former Sears department store.
"They’re making noise all day long here five days a week," said Patrick Brent, who since 1975 has owned a unit in the condominium named 1350 Ala Moana, which is across Piikoi Street from the mall. "In the last few weeks we’ve been woken up at 5 in the morning by helicopters dropping machinery on the roof of the shopping center. The reason they do it at 5 or 6 in the morning is because they don’t want to slow down revenue during the day. We got a real David-and-Goliath thing going on here."
Ala Moana contractor Hawaiian Dredging submitted an application for a noise variance permit that allows construction 24 hours a day, six days a week, until September 2015. Ala Moana informed the state Department of Health Thursday that its contractor intends to revise the noise variance application following public opposition at a community meeting last week but did not provide details of the new plan.
Some of the 353 residents of 1350 Ala Moana are petitioning DOH to reject the variance.
"The intent of the noise variance permit is to allow for specific projects to be completed during off-business hours only, nevertheless we will attempt to limit construction activities that can create noise at night to the minimum necessary," Ala Moana said in a statement, adding that the variance does not include work on Sundays or holidays. "Prior to resubmitting our noise variance application, we plan on meeting again with our neighbors in order to advise (them) of the revised plans, which will also serve to continue our ongoing communication efforts. In the meantime, we welcome all feedback and appreciate the community’s patience and understanding as we work to complete this project."
The state’s normal noise permit sets hours for regular construction from Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Contractors need to obtain a noise variance application for projects outside those hours. The Health Department said it could take up to several months to decide on whether to grant the noise variance permit because of required community meetings to gather public input.
"It’s tough. Any time that there’s change in people’s lifestyles it gets sensitive and that’s what’s happening over here," said Ron Komine Jr., general manager of 1350 Ala Moana. "We don’t have (air conditioning) within the building … so the majority of people sleep with the windows open. When the windows are open, you can hear a pin drop across the street."
The construction projects Ala Moana plans to complete at night or in the early-morning hours include clearing water from a trench so electrical or plumbing work can be done, laying concrete, and removing a canopy outside the old Sears building.
"They’re requesting to do it during variance hours because of the safety to the general public shopping at Ala Moana," said Craig Nishihara, DOH Indoor and Radiological Health Branch noise inspector. He added that while Ala Moana is requesting a 24-hour variance, it doesn’t intend to do the work continously through the night. "They don’t want to do it with patrons on-site. I’m sure they want to try and keep their businesses going. If they have to shut down the businesses, they all lose money … and the employees don’t get to work."
The project, which is expanding the Sears space to 650,000 square feet, will include the first Bloomingdale’s in Hawaii and other large retailers and restaurants, as well as 200,000 square feet of space for smaller businesses. The project is expected to be completed in November 2015.
Ala Moana held a public meeting last week at Makiki Christian Church informing neighbors of its plan, but hasn’t set a date for a second community briefing before it submits a revised application.
If the noise variance is approved, residents can contact Hawaiian Dredging at 735-7458 during construction hours with any concerns or complaints.