Hawaii News New ideas sought on how to revitalize Chinatown and Aala Park By Dan Nakaso firstname.lastname@example.org June 21, 2021 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! A new approach is underway to crack down on crime in and around Chinatown and Aala Park — and then pump new and positive life into the area — beginning with a new way to document community ideas and then measure any results. Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. A new approach is underway to crack down on crime in and around Chinatown and Aala Park — and then pump new and positive life into the area — beginning with a new way to document community ideas and then measure any results. Major banks in the area are combining to donate more than $125,000 for both an initial and follow-up survey to document problems in the Chinatown, downtown and Kalihi-Palama areas and especially in Aala Park, which continues to generate complaints about illegal homeless activity and crime. The two surveys will be conducted by the Anthology Group. The “Weed and Seed” concept that’s expected to start this summer represents both the first effort of its kind by new city Prosecutor Steve Alm — and also a reboot of Alm’s previous Chinatown Weed and Seed effort as Hawaii’s U.S. attorney two decades ago. Alm’s previous Weed and Seed effort “resulted in a 70% reduction in crime over a 3-year period and a renaissance of sorts for the area,” according to the Trust for Public Land. The latest effort involves a hui of the prosecutor’s office, the city Office of Housing and the first effort of its kind to improve an urban park in Hawaii by the Trust for Public Land, which is donating $10,000 to help commission the two Anthology surveys. More than 18,000 people live within 10 minutes’ walking distance of Aala Park, one of Honolulu’s first parks, located just outside of Oahu’s original neighborhood. Established in 1904, Aala Park has a rich cultural history and a sometimes complicated one, including then-Mayor Frank Fasi’s ill-conceived effort to clamp down on homelessness by creating a city-sanctioned tent city in the park between 1990 and 1993. The tent city concept failed after a night of “wilding” that included an attempted murder and a trail of crime scenes. Today Aala Park “is certainly deserving of love,” said Lea Hong, state director of the Trust for Public Land. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Chinatown residents and merchants this year have repeatedly complained about homelessness and homeless-related vandalism and crime, and have told Mayor Rick Blangiardi they believe the numbers of Chinatown homeless have increased. Alm spokesman Matt Dvonch said it’s likely that the first survey will touch on a range of issues beyond homelessness and include questions about what people believe needs to be done — followed by a different survey in two or three years about what respondents believe was accomplished since the initial survey. “We need to get a base line of the community’s concerns,” Dvonch said. “Then we need to see if Weed and Seed has had any positive effect. It’s not just on the ‘weed’ side, but it will give us ideas for the ‘seed’ side for any community development.” Funders for the two surveys include American Savings Bank ($50,000) and First Hawaiian Bank, Bank of Hawaii and Central Pacific Bank ($25,000 each). USA Federal Credit union also committed $25,000 over three years to support the Trust for Public Land’s efforts at Aala Park, which could include financing for the surveys, Hong said. In a statement to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Ann Teranishi, president and CEO of American Savings Bank, wrote: “American Savings Bank has been committed to the ongoing revitalization of the Aala/Chinatown/Kalihi area since we purchased the land for our new ASB Campus in 2014. The Trust for Public Land survey will capture the community’s sentiments, as well as their hopes and dreams for the area, and inform future improvement plans. We are proud to partner on this important effort to transform our neighborhood into a safe, healthy and welcoming community for all.” Catherine Ngo, chairwoman of the Central Pacific Bank Foundation, told the Star-Advertiser in an email, “The Downtown Honolulu, Chinatown, and Kalihi communities hold such a rich and vibrant place in Hawaii’s history and our shared future. CPB Foundation is pleased to help fund the Trust for Public Land’s community survey project, in commitment to helping create neighborhoods where local residents and small businesses thrive.” Previous Story Vital Statistics: June 4-10, 2021 Next Story Kokua Line: Does the state government know what percentage of its workforce is vaccinated against COVID-19?