Costs to renovate Thomas Square rise

Costs to renovate Thomas Square rise

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The cost to renovate Thomas Square continues to rise, even after the City Council has slashed the project's budget.

A report by the city's consultant Rider Levett Bucknall shows that the renovation plan will cost $10 million, an increase of nearly $2 million in less than five months.

"It is expensive," said City Council member Ann Kobayashi.

Earlier this year, the council cut the city's renovation budget for Thomas Square by $4 million.

"To then start to glamorize the park, during these times I don't think we should be going into that."

The city's renovation plan is the first for Thomas Square in half a century. The project is supposed to be completed by July 2018 and is meant to celebrate the 175th anniversary park's creation, which marked the restoration of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1843.

The plan includes improved landscaping, new bathrooms, a flag pole that will just fly the Hawaiian flag and a statue honoring King Kamehameha III. But it also includes a band stand, a food concession and food trucks on the Victoria Street side of park.

Even the city concedes that its plan may be too ambitious.

"The master plan is a vision. Not every aspect of the master plan will be fully implemented because I think we are going to have to prioritize," said Guy Kaulukukui, director of the City Department of Enterprise Services.

"We really want to look for ways to honor the traditions, the events that happened here."

Kaulukukui said the first phase of the project will make the park much more usable for the local community. The hedges surrounding the park will be cut down, making the park more accessible from streets. Lighting on trees will be increased.

The city also will transfer the management of the park from the Parks Department to Enterprise Services, giving it more resources to maintain the park.

Enterprise Services employs 67 full-time and part-time workers at the nearby Blaisdell Center, many of whom could be called on for the park's upkeep. The city Parks Department only has two maintenance workers for the park.

"Two or three years from now, this park should be more active ... there should be families playing with their children here," he said.

Native Hawaiian groups said the commercial aspects of the project aren't that critical. They said additions like the Hawaiian flag and Kamehameha III's statue -- which are not affected by the budget cuts -- are what's important because of what they symbolize.

"I think it's important to recognize the past but also we're still here today. So it gives hope for my children personally that sovereignty will one day happen here," said Daniel Anthony of La Hoihoi Ea.

Added Kumu Hula Hina Wong-Kalu: "The heritage and the history of this place is one of the most critical elements that can be uplifted, highlighted and honored."

The city has filed a new environmental assessment for the park project and the public now has 30 days to comment on that plan.

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