Rotary still committed to building park in Waikiki
Overgrown weeds, trash and graffiti are still hallmarks of the vacant lot between Aloha Drive and Manukai Street, where the city has been promisingresidents a park for some 15 years.
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Overgrown weeds, trash and graffiti are still hallmarks of the vacant lot between Aloha Drive and Manukai Street, where the city has been promising
residents a park for some 15 years.
In 2003, the city paid $2.57 million to purchase the 33,000-square-foot lot and turn it into open space called Centennial Park. Community activist William Sweatt, who died in 2011 before his dream of a park was realized, is credited with stopping the construction of a high-rise senior
living facility at the site.
Despite Sweatt’s enthusiasm, progress stalled when city officials decided to
turn the proposed park
into a “temporary” staging area and construction
baseyard for improvement projects throughout Waikiki.
In 2016, the city finally partnered with the Rotary Club of Honolulu to turn the lot into one of the only open green spaces in central Waikiki. But aside from a recent tree clearing by the city, there are few visible signs that a park is taking shape.
The Rotary Club has raised about $525,000, more than the original cost estimates to build the park. However, new estimates indicate the local club’s costs to develop the park could reach $3.6 million, according to Rob Hale, president of the club’s park committee, who gave a project briefing at a recent meeting. The committee has recommended design changes, such as reducing sidewalk widths and simplifying the park’s gates and fencing, which would bring their portion of costs below
$1.9 million, Hale said.
In addition to cost increases, the group also is grappling with changes to the scope of its original public-private partnership with the city. Hawaiian Electric Co. has applied for a city permit to add an electrical switch station that serves all of Waikiki in Centennial Park. In addition, the
Management Association applied for a city permit
to alleviate some of the area’s traffic woes by carving out a bus-staging area
adjacent to the park on
The changes, especially the switch station because of its 10-by-30-foot size, have caused consternation in the club and the community.
Some have questioned the aesthetics of a bus-staging area near the park and have expressed concern that a switch station may attract homeless individuals. Several donors are so upset by the proposed changes they’ve asked for their money back.
However, others think the bus-staging area and the electrical switching station wouldn’t detract from a park. Proponents say both concepts would serve nearby residents.
Hale said the club still is committed to construction of Centennial Park, which is important because it’s “an urban pocket park in a very dense neighborhood where there aren’t a lot of green spaces.”
The club hopes to have most of the park ready in time for the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Honolulu from June 28 to July 1. The entire park should be completed in time for Rotary International’s Convention in June 2020, Hale said.
“We are processing a number of permits. A lot of people think it’s a very simple project so we should just go ahead and do it. But it’s very complex because of the number of players
on the site,” he said.
If all goes well, Hale said the club plans to start planting trees and sod by February and will proceed to other phases as more money is raised. The club also wants to install fences, sidewalks, a performance mound, commemorative rocks depicting Rotary’s story and signage that provides park visitors with historical information about Waikiki and its connections to Hawaiian alii.
Public hearings are not required. However, park
donor Barbara Saromines-Ganne said the city, Rotary and other involved parties should hold public meetings so the community,
especially donors, are informed about changes to the scope of the original project.
“It seems like the lot is being co-opted for every use but a park,” said Saromines-Ganne, who has lived in a condominium overlooking the vacant lot for the past 32 years. “If it’s going to be badly compromised, I will want my money back. But I want to see what it’s going to look like before I make a decision.”
Association President Rick Egged said the outcome
of the Waikiki Transportation Management Association’s bus-staging proposal depends on the placement of HECO’s switching
“We are waiting on HECO to determine if we’ll have enough room for a staging area on Manukai Street,” Egged said.
Nathan Serota, spokesman for the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said the city
denied HECO’s original request because of the initial location of the structure as well as its size and footprint. However, a new request from HECO is currently going through the “normal approval process,” he said.
If accepted, HECO would pay the city a usage fee based on the appraised value of the land, Serota said.
Jim Alberts, HECO’s senior vice president of customer service, said the company is working with the club to design the switching station to minimize its impact on the park.
Mitch D’Olier, a past president of Rotary, said the
Hawaiian Electric Foundation has agreed to donate $50,000 for the park.