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New Kakaako tower plan relatively unopposed

Kakaako condo development
Kakaako condo development

RENDERING COURTESY ALAKEA DESIGN GROUP

Developers proposing a condominium tower largely surrounded by midrise town homes and rental apartments on a parking lot in Kakaako sailed through an initial public hearing Wednesday, attracting hardly a speck of the dissent raised last year on a similar project nearby.

The Hawaii Community Development Authority, the state agency regulating development in Kakaako, held the hearing on Keauhou Lane, a project featuring a 43-story condo tower, 632 residential units, parking for 1,038 cars and about 39,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space on a 4.2-acre block bordered by South, Pohukaina, Halekauwila and Keawe streets.

Agency board members heard from several development consultants explaining aspects of the project including traffic impacts, sewer capacity, tower spacing, height limits and a planned connection to the city’s rail line.

Public testimony, however, was scant.

Two project supporters were the only ones to testify in person at the hearing. Nine pieces of written testimony were submitted, with eight favoring Keauhou Lane.

The testimony stood in stark contrast to strong opposition last year against a similar project called The Collection two blocks makai of Keauhou Lane.

Keauhou Lane and The Collection share similarities, including their distance from a neighboring condo tower, a parking garage exceeding the HCDA’s limit, and impacts on traffic and sewer capacity. Both projects also are part of a master plan to turn 29 acres in Kakaako owned by Kamehameha Schools into a new urban neighborhood dubbed Our Kaka’ako.

The Collection, featuring a 397-unit condo tower surrounded by 70 midrise residences wrapped around a 914-stall parking structure, drew about 200 negative written comments from people opposing that project, including many in the neighboring One Waterfront Towers condo complex.

Alexander & Baldwin Inc., the Collection’s developer, also received lots of support for its plan, including 460 pieces of written testimony.

The Collection in August, though the association of condo owners at One Waterfront has appealed the decision.

Stanford Carr, a local developer in charge of the tower and parking portion of Keauhou Lane, said project representatives met with residents in nearby condos and for the most part received positive comments, though he said some neighbors don’t want anything built on the lot.

“You can’t blame them,”he said.”It’s been quiet for the last 25-30 years.”

Carr noted that the developer of One Waterfront, Bruce Stark, planned two towers on the Keauhou Lane site after his completion of One Waterfront in 1990. HCDA approved Stark’s plan, but a soured economy killed the project called Waterpark Towers in the early 1990s.

The 43-story tower at Keauhou Lane is designed with 388 condos. Another 35 town homes would line the parking garage along South and Pohukaina streets.

Development team members called Keauhou Lane an example of smart urban design that supports pedestrian access and a connection to mass transit.

“It is a unique opportunity with rail coming online to create a mixed-use project that defines TOD (transit-oriented development),”Carr said.

About a half-acre of the project site along Halekauwila Street is designated for the city’s planned rail station. Keauhou Lane’s developers plan to border this area with a pedestrian mall that connects perpendicularly to a mauka-makai pedestrian mall. The pedestrian mall would run between two sections of midrise rental apartments over ground-floor restaurant and retail spaces.

The apartments and retail space of Keauhou Lane are being developed by Portland, Ore.-based Gerding Edlen and will feature 209 rentals in four six-story buildings on the Keawe Street side of the block.

Gerding Edlen is seeking to exceed a 45-foot height limit for midrise buildings by 20 feet, and said the extra height allows building the same amount of residential and commercial floor area that would be possible without the pedestrian plaza.

Phil Camp, a principal with Hawaii Architecture LLPresponsible for the midrise portion of Keauhou Lane, said adding the plaza will provide a midblock connection to the city’s rail station and enliven the streetscape.

“It’s not often that you see a project that is that open to pedestrian activity,”he said.

Under HCDA rules, departures from some height limits and other design rules may be considered for certain reasons.

For the project’s tower and garage component, Carr is seeking to build the tower 249 feet away from an affordable rental tower he is building just Diamond Head of Keauhou Lane. The distance should be at least 300 feet under HCDA rules.

Mike Kujubu, managing partner with Alakea Design Group, responsible for the tower design, said the location is preferable because it won’t block mountain views from One Waterfront or ocean views from another existing tower, Keola Lai. That’s because Keauhou Lane is positioned between One Waterfront and Keola Lai.

The distance between the Keauhou Lane tower and One Waterfront is 252 feet, or 52 feet more than HCDA rules require when the narrow edge of a building is involved. On the makai side of One Waterfront, the narrow edge of the Collection tower would be 249 feet away, which raised complaints from some One Waterfront residents.

The parking garage for Keauhou Lane is proposed to be 71.5 feet high, exceeding a 45-foot limit tied to the project under a master plan even though the HCDA raised the limit to 65 feet in 2011.

Kujubu said the extra height will allow wrapping the seven-story garage with four-story town homes that will create a more active and aesthetic streetscape.

The garage also will provide 280 stalls for the rental apartments, some for retail and restaurant users, and about 100 stalls for other public use that potentially could be a park-and-ride for rail.

Pete Pascua, a traffic engineer with Wilson Okamoto Corp., told HCDA’s board that there will be some additional traffic generated by Keauhou Lane, though peak morning and afternoon trips in or out of the block won’t significantly degrade travel time through the intersections at the four corners of the block.

David Bills, president of Bills Engineering Inc. and civil engineer for Keauhou Lane, told HCDA directors that city officials say adequate sewer capacity exists and that some needed upgrades to water lines will be made.

The HCDA plans to host two public meetings next month — on April 12 at 10 a.m. and on April 15 at 5:30 p.m. — to review Keauhou Lane details at its offices at 461 Cooke St. A second public hearing on Keauhou Lane is scheduled for April 30 at

9 a.m., at which time the agency is expected to make a decision.

Article courtesy of the Honolulu Star Advertiser, written by Andrew Gomes and POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Mar 20, 2014

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