Leave the car at home. Just minutes to Ala Moana or downtown. Save money on gas and parking.
These are some of the messages that sales teams have been telling potential buyers at several of the new condominium projects in Kakaako over the past couple of years.
Oahu’s fixed-rail system that was to connect Kapolei to Ala Moana Center was to help transform Kakaako into a modern, trendy, urban community where people could live, work and play without ever getting into their cars.
That’s on hold for now as Mayor Kirk Caldwell joined other leaders in recommending to cut short the planned 20-mile route by about 5 miles at Middle Street as costs for the multibillion-dollar system soar. So the rail might never reach Kakaako and serve the thousands of people who will be moving into the new, shiny high-rises in the coming years, leaving developers and some condo buyers in the lurch.
For Keauhou Place, which is under construction near Restaurant Row, the absence of rail would be a significant blow as a station was proposed next to the 43-story tower.
“Any insights if the rail will make it to Keauhou Place?” a buyer recently asked on Keauhou Place’s Facebook page. “It was one of the main reasons I wanted to live there.”
The rail was heavily incorporated into Keauhou Place’s sales materials and presentations. Keauhou Place even incorporated a Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit simulation video showing how reliable, quiet, fast and convenient the rail will be.
“Surrounded by restaurants and shops in the urban village of Kakaako, you can go to the beach or hop on the new light rail for easy downtown access,” Keauhou Place’s website says.
At Ward Village there are models showing the planned rail line and station in proximity to its condo projects that are under construction or in the works. One of the rail stations is proposed along Ward Avenue, across the street from the Ke Kilohana development. At Ke Kilohana all 375 of the reserve-housing units, including the two- and three- bedroom residences, come with just one parking stall.
So some buyers may have been counting on the rail.
The rail route was also planned to run alongside several other Howard Hughes projects, including the luxury Ae‘o and Anaha towers.
“Honolulu’s forthcoming light rail system will directly connect Ward Village to destinations including downtown Honolulu and Waikiki,” says a display at the Ward Village sales center.
The mayor has said he wants to see the rail eventually go all the way to Ala Moana Center. But the city is more than $1.5 billion short of covering the project’s $8.3 billion projected price tag.
“I wish we could go all the way to Ala Moana now. That’s for another day,” Caldwell told the HART board.
With or without the rail, Kakaako is still a desirable and convenient place to live that’s close to everything. But if the rail fails to reach and serve one of the fastest-growing areas of the island, the true potential and vision of Kakaako and the island will be cut short.
Jaymes Song is a top-producing agent with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Advantage Realty in Kahala. He can be reached at 228-3332 or JaymesS@BetterHawaii.com.