HCDA rejects plan (for now) to build school, more affordable housing in Kakaako

HCDA rejects plan (for now) to build school, more affordable housing in Kakaako
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

KAKAAKO (HawaiiNewsNow) - Residents are expressing disappointment after a state agency rejected a developer's plan to build a school and more affordable housing in Kakaako.

"It would be a lot better having an elementary school close by," said resident Jerry Kealoha.

Merelyn Lubong, who works in Kakaako, agreed. "We need to make sure that our children are taken care of and their parents have convenient locations."

The Hawaii Community Development Authority board voted down the plan 690 Pohukaina St. on Wednesday, but is stressing it's not against the idea.

"I don't want any misconception that the school plan is dead at all. That's not the intent of the board," said Hawaii Community Development Authority Chairman John Whalen. "We just need to go ahead responsibly and make sure that it's done right."

HCDA say the plan was so dramatically different than what was initially requested, they had no choice but to vote against it.

"Our intent wasn't really to end those plans, we'd like to see them go ahead, because I think a public school would be a real asset in Kakaako," Whalen said.

He said the board doesn't have total control over what's built because the landowner is the Department of Land and Natural Resources. When the state department agreed to let the property be developed years ago, it expected the lot to generate money.

But DLNR Chairwoman Suzanne Case said in a statement that the agency would "like to see the property developed in a manner that fits the
Kakaako neighborhood with a combination vertical-type school that would take up less space, as well as affordable housing or rental units, and some commercial or retail space that could be rented so DLNR could see some revenues for the use of those lands."

She added, "We continue to work with all parties involved on good solutions."

State Department of Education assistant Superintendent Dann Carlson said he's disappointed in the ruling.

"We will continue to work on plans that meet the educational needs of the Kakaako community," he said, in a statement.

HCDA officials say the now-vacant lot at the project site is leased out for the next two years, so they don't have to make a decision right away.

But they're hopeful they'll be able to work with all parties to come up with a plan that will ultimately result in a new Kakaako school.

"It would seem intuitively that there's a need for a school because there's a growing population in Kakaako," Whalen said. "It's a wonderful central location that would be within walking distance of a lot of the housing that's being built there now and it makes part of the community."

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