State unveils details for Kakaako tower

State unveils details for Kakaako tower

Rent or own?

That's the question state officials will have to grapple with when they select the developer for the state's tallest building.

On Tuesday, the two finalists for the controversial project unveiled the details of the $500 million complex during a meeting held by the Hawaii Community Development Authority.

One of the bidders, Forest City Hawaii said it wants to build 800, mid-priced rental apartments for the 690 Pohukaina high rise project.

The company said that rentals -- and not more luxury condos -- are what local people need.

"Forest City believes we can put local people here in Kakaako," said Jon Wallenstrom, Forest City Hawaii's president.

"There's nobody from California or Japan that's going to buy one of our units. These are rental units."

Forest City says rents will go from $1,700 a month for one-bedroom units to $2,500 a month for three-bedroom units.

Rival Lend Lease, however, says it wants to develop condos to sell. It says most people would rather buy than pay $1,700 a month in rent.

"There isn't really demand for rentals at that income level," said Richard Hawes, Lend Lease executive vice president.

"We felt we would be better served by focusing on a for-sale approach."

Lend Lease's plan calls for one-bedroom condos priced from $286,000 to larger units at $420,000.

The site of the project is currently vacant. When completed, the 690 Pohukaina project will be 650 feet tall. The state is now seeking an exemption to the 450-foot height limit.

Critics said the project will be an unwelcome intrusion to Honolulu's skyline.

"One 650-foot tower rising 50 percent above all other buildings on the islands is one too many," said Bob Loy, director of environmental programs at the Outdoor Circle.

The state says it will select the developer on Dec. 13. From there, the state says it hopes to finalize a development agreement by July and break ground in the following year.

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