Lee Cataluna: Mayor Kirk Caldwell is renovating something, but not Blaisdell
You know when you get to that point in a relationship where you analyze everything that comes out of the other person’s mouth because you just don’t trust them anymore?
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You know when you get to that point in a relationship where you analyze everything that comes out of the other person’s mouth because you just don’t trust them anymore? What they say and what you see are two different things. You’ve known that person long enough to suspect there’s always more to the story or some motive that they’re not being straight about.
What did you think when you read that Mayor Kirk Caldwell was nixing his plans to soup up the Blaisdell because nah, gotta focus on the rail problems first?
Did you wonder if he’s trying to salvage his plans to run for governor by distancing himself from unpopular projects that make him look like he’s too cozy with big developers? That’s he’s trying to erase that wicked image of him on the protest posters with his fingers in his ears willfully ignoring public outcry? That he’s up to something, though you’re not sure what that something is?
Sad that it has come to this.
It could be that Caldwell’s motives for canceling the $773 million Blaisdell overhaul are exactly as he stated: “Given that the final construction cost is yet unknown for the last 4.16 miles of our rail system and the City’s financial responsibilities for the operations of the upcoming rail service … we decided that it is a logical time to pause the project.” That sounds reasonable, except that the official line from the city has always been, “Rail funding and Blaisdell redevelopment funding come from different sources and are independent of each other.” (That statement is currently on the city’s website about the Blaisdell redevelopment project.)
The other line from Monday’s announcement that had a funny sound to it was the part about it being a “logical time to pause the project.” OK, sure, it’s logical to pause a project before the first bulldozers start in, but for all the people who got pulled into planning for the big redevelopment — all the community groups and designers and number crunchers and report drafters who put in the years of work on this plan — it probably doesn’t feel like a logical time to pause the project at all. That’s a lot of effort to be put away in a drawer. That’s $16.9 million of city money spent planning something that will never be built.
The idea of demolishing and rebuilding the arena, putting in a bunch of retail space, making new parking and upscaling the place so it looks more like New Ala Moana Center than Old Ala Moana Center seemed like a solution in search of a problem. The Blaisdell no doubt needs some fixing, but dropping that kind of cash so that Honolulu can attract “world class” entertainment is questionable when we’ve had plenty of big acts come to town in recent years and a better investment may be to support Hawaii artists in the quest to become worldwide. Focus on our exports, not imports.
But whatever. This project never seemed to be about giving local residents something they asked for, just as abandoning the project doesn’t seem to be about focusing on rail.
Reach Lee Cataluna at 529-4315 or firstname.lastname@example.org.