Commercial and industrial swaths of Kalihi in urban Honolulu would be redeveloped into mixed-use housing projects and new businesses along with recreational areas under a “vision plan” state officials unveiled Tuesday.
The idea of transforming the area into a place where residents can “live, work and play” hinges on the possible relocation of the aging Oahu Community Correctional Center out of Kalihi. The jail sits on a 16-acre parcel along Kamehameha Highway in the path of the city’s planned rail line.
Gov. David Ige, who cited plans to redevelop the site in his 2016 State of the State speech, convened a working group of community leaders last year to explore possibilities for the neighborhoods surrounding OCCC.
Ige on Tuesday released the plan — dubbed the “21st Century Kalihi Transformation Initiative” — which has no funding attached for implementation. It was prepared by PBR Hawaii & Associates Inc. for the state Office of Planning at a cost of $50,000 and focuses on state-owned land between Middle Street and Iwilei, makai of North King Street.
“The purpose of this effort was to understand community needs, concerns and desires for the (OCCC) site and surrounding area, and to articulate a vision informed and inspired by community aspirations,” the 170-page plan says. Redevelopment of the jail site “is seen as a catalyst for future planning of state-controlled lands” in the area.
The state, however, has yet to finalize plans to relocate the overcrowded jail. The state has spent more than $1 million so far on a site selection study for a replacement facility, and the Department of Public Safety is going through an environmental impact statement process to review four potential sites, which include the existing Kalihi site.
“It really is about a livable, walkable, complete- streets kind of community. The community said loud and clear that they want job opportunities in the area, they want affordable housing,” Ige said at a news conference Tuesday in his office. “The vision (plan) begins to lay out and talk about a broader look at what Kalihi would want, and I think the challenge and the opportunity then is to take the opportunities as they become available and work to implement the vision.”
April Bautista, a Kalihi resident who served on the governor’s vision committee, called the planning process thoughtful. She said it aims to stay true to Kalihi’s roots as a community of working-class families “that really do love Kalihi.”
“To be part of this planning process, it was very new, it was different … having the opportunity to ask what would you like to see in your own neighborhood,” said Bautista, whose grandmother immigrated from the Philippines and settled in Kalihi.
Bautista, who runs a youth program for a statewide health nonprofit, said residents of all ages were included in the discussions, including youth.
“We want to hang out and spend time in Kalihi without having to take a 30-minute bus ride somewhere else,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing it being implemented and how it’s going to change Kalihi for the better (while) making sure that our families and immigrants are still welcome and that the mom-and-pop shops still stay around.”
When asked about a timeline for the redevelopment activity, Ige said “there are still many steps that have to occur” but added that parts of the plan could be implemented over the next five to 10 years.
Leo Asuncion Jr., director of the state Office of Planning, said the state didn’t want to sit back and wait for final decisions on OCCC and rail.
“There are schools of thought that you need the rail to come in, but if you’re going to wait until that happens and then start the discussion and the planning, you’re five to 10 years out,” he said. “So that’s why we’re already looking at, from a planning standpoint, where these parcels are, are they developable, do they have the capacity for infrastructure.”
Asuncion estimated the state owns approximately 100 acres in the urban core, but little to no vacant land, which will make partnering with private landowners essential for any redevelopment.
“There is a lot more conversation and joint planning that needs to occur so that we can assure that the investments in the infrastructure are correlated with the changes that we would want to implement,” Ige said.
State rep. Romy Cachola likened the possibilities to the revitalization happening in Kakaako, where affordable-housing units are being developed alongside luxury condominiums; new businesses and eateries have sprung up; and dedicated bike lanes have been installed. But the first step, he said, will be to relocate OCCC.
“For as long as the jail is in Kalihi, no developer in their right mind will go over there and build hotels, homes, whatever,” Cachola (D, Sand Island-Kalihi-Airport) said. “By moving OCCC out of Kalihi, you will make Kalihi one of the prime areas to develop. … What’s happening at Kakaako is the same thing that will happen in Kalihi. A lot of projects will be done — high-rises, affordable housing, businesses.”
To read the plan, go to 808ne.ws/21stcenturykalihi.
THE VISION FOR KALIHI
Redevelopment priorities in the governor’s 21st Century Kalihi Transformation Initiative:
>> Develop jobs/tax base to elevate residents.
>> Support innovation with housing/co-working spaces to draw population in.
>> Preserve Kalihi’s industrial uses.
>> Encourage affordable, workforce, low-income, kupuna as well as market-rate housing.
>> Mitigate potential for gentrification, avoid displacing low- and moderate-income residents.
>> Include a mix of housing, not just lofts and studios, but two- and three-bedroom units for multigenerational families.
>> Include green space, shade, parks in housing complexes, but open to community with security.
>> Include fields for soccer, softball, rugby.
>> Build better, safer playgrounds.
>> Improve infrastructure to support, enhance opportunities for small businesses.
>> Coordinate future transit services to provide access and greater mobility.
PRIDE AND CULTURE
>> Polish the image of Kalihi.
>> Create new amenities with entertainment, cultural and recreational value.