A Vision for the Future Part 3
by Kalei'āina Lee
The last three properties to talk about in Kakaʻako Makai are Lots E, I, and L.
Lot L has tremendous value as is, given the limited dock side warehouse space on Honolulu Harbor. While Lot I is directly across Ala Moana Boulevard from a Kamehameha Schools development, “The Collection,” any business development here would be hampered by the crossing of Ala Moana Boulevard. There are several entities, including the City and County of Honolulu, that have expressed interest in purchasing Lot I from OHA.
While we could continue to explore options for a development of our own, OHA could take the cash and put it towards either the development ideas already laid out over the last two months, the purchase of other properties, or the Native Hawaiian Trust portfolio for investment.
This brings us back to Lot E. A development consortium is interested in doing an affordable housing project here using the existing structure. What makes this different from what was proposed at the State Legislature is that it is not seeking a height variance from the state to add maximum density. It has support from the city, which is willing to provide funding for the project. The developers are providing all the additional funding and OHA would not have to provide any money, while still having control of the commercial space and a percentage of the units.
While the city funding would be contingent on the project remaining in place for a minimum of 65 years (or the tens of millions of dollars put up by the city would have to be paid back), if OHA develops housing somewhere else and relocates the tenants from Lot E, then the entitlements from the city would transfer over as well and OHA would be free to redevelop Lot E. This project could move forward in a matter of months and would not only provide much needed affordable housing for our beneficiaries, but it would also be a short-term solution for a building that is basically sitting vacant.
For the long term, Lot E is well-located for a vertical tech park. With the State of Hawaiʻi’s new high-speed underwater internet cable that will come up right into Kakaʻako Makai this would be an ideal location for such a project. It would allow Native Hawaiian entrepreneurs to have their businesses located in the heart of urban Honolulu and allow OHA to create an incubator for Native Hawaiian tech companies as just one example of the possibilities to a vertical tech park location.
On the broader vision for these types of development ideas for OHA we turn our eyes west to Nā Lama Kukui on Nimitz Hwy.
This property, which has quadrupled in value since being acquired by OHA, sits within the transportation-oriented development corridor of Honolulu. OHA will be able to take advantage of all the entitlements that come with that to not only increase the height of a new development but its density as well, to provide affordable, workforce housing for Native Hawaiians that is not only walking distance to downtown Honolulu, but right next to a major rail station. OHA would also be able to partner with other landowners in the area to increase housing density which would create a thriving community in the area, all affordable, all accessible, and all within OHA’s reach without lobbying to change laws or obtain the legislature’s permission.
I hope you have appreciated a vision of what OHA could accomplish. Hopefully, it can become a reality versus a continued fight with lawmakers, and not just one Trustee’s vision.