KAKAAKO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kakaako's building boom is prompting concerns about adequate classroom space for all the new students. A state agency approved construction of another high-rise, despite problems highlighted by Hawaii's Department of Education. The Howard Hughes Corporation plans to build three condo towers in Phase 1 of its Ward Village master plan, but the DOE is worried that there won't be enough space for the additional elementary school students.
A high-rise with roughly 425 units is being planned for 404 Ward Avenue across from Sports Authority. Most of the residences will be workforce housing units which are affordably priced. This project is the first of 22 towers slated to be built on land owned by the company.
"Unfortunately, the DOE has never been contacted by the developers to discuss the school capacity needs of this specific residential tower or for the rest of their 60 acre proposed development," said Heidi Meeker of the Department of Education.
With the recent approval of other condos in Kakaako, Meeker said that there wouldn't be enough classroom space at Queen Kaahumanu Elementary and Royal Elementary School. The Hawaii Community Development Authority believes there is time to find a solution since construction on the first tower won't be complete until early 2016.
"Some of the suggestions are that you create a smaller footprint for the school or you incorporate or redevelop some of the existing school sites," said Anthony Ching, executive director of the HCDA.
"For many years with development in Kakaako, we believed we had a school site at Pohukaina, and then very quickly we lost that site so that put us in a different situation," explained Meeker.
Other people testified both for and against the project. In the end, HCDA members voted to approve the development permit application.
The developer then presented proposals for two other towers with market rate prices. The one planned for the parking lot on the makai side of the Ward theatres would have about 175 residences, including townhomes along Ala Moana Boulevard. The high-rise that is set to be built at the current Pier 1 Imports site would have roughly 315 units.
"I think there's a lot of issues regarding schools and a lot of confusion, too, about what's available and what's not. We're going to do our best to meet with them and understand what the situation is," said David Striph, senior vice president, Hawaii for the Howard Hughes Corporation.
The HCDA will make a decision about the last two towers in Phase 1 on August 21.