Is Kakaako ready for the boom?
More than 12,000 people now live in the 450-acre region bordered by Ala Moana, Punchbowl, South King and Piikoi streets. But by the year 2018, the population is expected to grow to 22,000.
"How are we going to have 22 new condos, some 700 feet tall and have enough sewer capacity," said City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi.
"What about the water supply? Traffic? Schools?"
Kobayashi and fellow Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga wrote a letter last month to the city Transportation Department and the Department of Environmental Services expressing concerns about stress on the region's infrastructure.
But the state agency that oversees the Kakaako region -- the Hawaii Community Development Authority -- says the existing infrastructure is adequate and can handle up to 30,000 residents.
Anthony Ching, the HCDA's executive director, said the state has spent over $100 million to improve Kakaako's infrastructure over the past several decades.
"The pipes in the ground are sufficient with respect to storm water drainage and carry waste water. Utilities are also available," Ching said.
Kakaako is in the midst of a building boom not seen in Hawaii since the Japanese investment bubble of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Alexander & Baldwin Inc. is planned two more projects while Howard Hughes Corp. wants to build 900 new apartments at four different properties.
But the region's aging water lines and the stress on sewer pipes are already a concern for residents who live in the area.
During an HCDA hearing yesterday, several said they opposed Alexander & Baldwin latest project -- a 43-story complex at the former CompUSA site at Ala Moana and South Street because -- because it will overwhelm the region's infrastructure.
"When you are spilling out that many people and in that short area, we're going to have super problems with traffic, the infrastructure," said George Beavin, president of the owners association at One Waterfront Tower on South Street.
Area resident Sharon Moriwaki added that Kakaako should be designed for Hawaii and "not Manhattan, not Hong Kong, not Chicago."
The HCDA will vote on the A&B project in August. But regardless of the outcome of that vote, the issue of whether Kakaako's infrastructure is adequate will be debated for years.