Panel postpones tower decision amid opposition
A state board is taking more time before deciding whether to approve another condominium high-rise at Ward Village after receiving lots of public testimony for and against theproject.
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A state board is taking more time before deciding whether to approve another condominium high-rise at Ward Village after receiving lots of public testimony for and against the project.
The Hawaii Community Development Authority, which regulates development in Kakaako, deferred a decision on the proposed 751-unit tower called ‘A‘ali‘i after a more than three-hour hearing Wednesday.
The agency held two previous public hearings in November that included one that lasted five hours and was dominated by presentations by representatives of ‘A‘ali‘i developer Howard Hughes Corp., and included written testimony from about 30 people.
John Whalen, agency board chairman, said more time was needed to consider about 25 more pieces of written testimony submitted over the last few days, including one from City
Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga, who endorsed a few
concerns raised by
Two major issues are the height of the tower’s base and the distance between its broad side and an already rising adjacent tower called A‘eo.
Douglas Ing, an attorney representing the developer, called these two elements “make-or-break” issues.
Hughes Corp. wants the tower’s base to rise 75 feet instead of the 45 feet allowed under rules applying to Ward Village. The taller base can be approved under HCDA rules that allow for such a “modification” if a practically and aesthetically superior project results without negatively affecting adjacent properties.
The developer said the taller base, which would house parking, will allow it to wrap the structure with residential and retail spaces that will enhance its appearance. Hughes Corp. also noted that HCDA granted the same base height for three other permitted towers.
Sticking with the lower height would force Hughes Corp. to eliminate 123 condos and add at least $36,000 to the price of remaining homes, the developer said in written filing.
Regarding tower spacing, HCDA rules for Ward Village specify at least 300 feet between the broad sides of towers “to the extent practicable.” ‘A‘ali‘i would be 206 feet away. Ing said several factors, including Hawaiian burial remains, alignment of the city’s planned rail guideway and the preference to preserve more public mauka-makai views by facing the tower’s narrow side toward the mountain and ocean, make the 300 feet impracticable.
Much of the testimony in favor of the project came from people in the construction industry, Ward Village tenants and real estate agents.
“The Howard Hughes vision for Ward Village is great,” Locations broker John Gephart told the board.
Some testifying against the project wore red shirts representing the Kakaako United group formed by area residents.
John Kobelansky Jr., a resident at Imperial Plaza on Cooke Street, said ‘A‘ali‘i, as designed with its condo-wrapped tower base, is too dense. “It’s like putting another building into a building,” he said.
Most of the negative testimony was submitted via email in the previous day or two, and included a comment from 909 Kapiolani tower resident Douglas Valenta, who called the developer’s vision “myopic and reckless.”
Judy Gernant lives in Kakaako’s twin 400-foot tower project One Waterfront Towers but doesn’t want to see more. “Enough 400-foot concrete and glass obstructions,” she wrote. “This is not the kind of community that Kakaako was meant to be.”
The HCDA plans to reconvene to make a decision Jan. 4 at 1 p.m.