HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new hotel planned for Waikiki may be the first to be built on the shore in more than 3 decades. The building is designed to blend in with its beach backdrop but not everyone supports the plan.
Kyoya's "new" Diamond Head tower would replace the old 8-story building next to its Sheraton Moana Surfrider.
When completed, it would be a 26-story oceanfront mix of hotel rooms and condo units.
Kyoya company president, Greg Dickhens, calls it "re-investment."
Dickhens explained, "This would be the first new hotel in over thirty years. And we think it's very important for us to see new hotel product and new inventory."
Kyoya says it consulted cultural and community groups for input. So, the final product blends with its surroundings.
Architect Robert Iopa elaborated, "In being influenced by surfing we looked to incorporate that into some of the vertical aspects of our exterior of the building."
The center of the makai side would look like a giant surfboard standing on its tail.
Iopa worked in the Hawaiian concept of mountain-to-ocean subdivisions on the side facing the street. He details, "We talk about the healing stones of Waikiki, we talk about the surf, we talk about the waves down into the coral. So, all of these images would be depicted on the mauka side of our building.
Kyoya says the new tower would sit perpendicular to Kalakaua Avenue. It would be 308 feet tall at its highest point but still offer new views of the ocean.
Dickhens adds, "There's not one single location on Kalakaua Avenue where you can see the ocean from private property. This will be the first. And we think there will be 3 different locations on this site where pedestrians walking down Kalakaua Avenue will be able to see the ocean."
Kyoya says another benefit to pedestrians would be beach access. Right now there's only one way to the water through private property: along the busiest section of Kalakaua.
Iopa states, "The second will be fifteen feet wide, it'll be landscaped. It'll be beside the surfboard racks that exist at Kuhio Beach Park."
The company says it re-worked its original plan to comply with a city directive.
Dickhens conveyed, "The city determined that we needed to step the building back to reduce the massing of the building facing the makai side."
Kyoya has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to renovate its other Sheraton properties.
The new Diamond Head tower would be its crowning achievement but controversy over the city's granting of a variance to Kyoya could stall the project, or stop it.
Plans to build this 26-story tower on the ocean side of Kalakaua Avenue have been applauded and criticized but who are the opponents and what are their objections?
Dickhens says renovating the present Diamond Head tower building isn't an option. He furthers, "Unfortunately, the Diamond Head tower, which was built in 1952, violates a lot of good-planning guidelines, including the orientation of the building. It's very important to build mauka-makai orientation and create public open spaces, public view corridors".
A complaint filed by four organizations and an individual addresses the issue of the planned tower being a mix of hotel rooms and condos. Hawaii's Thousand Friends, Ka Iwi Coalition, Surfrider Foundation, Kahea and Michelle Matson say the project violates the city's zoning code. They've appealed a city variance that would allow Kyoya to set the building 50 feet from Waikiki's shoreline instead of a hundred.
Petititoners say that will degrade the quality of the shoreline and set a dangerous precedent but Kyoya says it's not at fault.
Dickhens explains, "Had the state developed the beach to the extent that they had agreed to in 1965, with that stepping back of the building, we would comply with the coastal height setback".
Complainants also worry that adding more condos to Waikiki will increase congestion in a busy corridor and the height of the building will obstruct views of the ocean.
Iopa says the tower will sit sideways to minimize the visual impact from Kalakaua Avenue. He elaborates, "By doing that we were able to turn the building, allowing for a significant open space that led through the ocean".
Dickhens says, "There is a trade-off. We're trying to create these open spaces and public access and public view corridors and the trade-off for that is height".
Kyoya complied with a city directive to scale back sections at the top of the building to minimize mass but critics say it's still too big.
A protestor asks others waving signs, "They wanna tear down an 8-story building and put up a 26-story tower. Are we in favor of that?". The other protestors answer, "No!".
Iopa offers, "We're allowing for greater access. We're creating better beach environments. We're providing areas that don't exist now for the public to enjoy Waikiki".
The city council voted unanimously "for" the tower but the city's zoning board of appeals must first rule on the complaint. Some board members recused themselves because of ties to Kyoya. The mayor has yet to name their replacements.
Iopa conveys, "We think through all of the input that we got through the design process, from community officials to planning officials, through the cultural focus groups, that we've been able to come up with a solution that we're proud of".
Hawaii News Now contacted or made attempts to speak with all parties opposed to the project and were told that their attorney advised them not to talk to the media. We even reached out to hotels whose site lines would be impacted by the project but our requests for comments were declined.
Kyoya wants construction of the new Diamond Head tower to begin in 2013.
Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.