WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said he hopes the city can begin renovation of the century-old Waikiki Natatorium by as early as 2019 after it completes a lengthy environmental review of the dilapidated complex.
During a news conference Monday, Caldwell described a new $20 million to $30 million city proposal to preserve the Natatorium's iconic arches and bleachers.
The plan also calls for an elevated perimeter pool deck that would allow water to flow in and out of the swim basin, replacing the existing sea walls.
"As we get closer (to 2019), we'll before start putting money in the budget so we can proceed so when I leave as mayor, we're actually taking action so that this thing becomes, this natatorium, this memorial becomes something that shows respect for our veterans," Caldwell said.
The plan is one of four alternatives now being studied by the city under the environmental review process.
Those options include a complete restoration, which could cost as much as $60 million, or doing nothing, which would still could cost taxpayers $2 to $4 million.
Caldwell says he favors a fourth alternative to build a war memorial beach at the site. Under hat plan, which also would cost $20 million to $30 million, Caldwell said the existing arches would then be replaced with replicas and moved to the property's original 1927 shoreline.
He said the city is open to private partners or sponsors picking up portions of the renovation costs.
But critics said that would be a bad idea.
Rick Bernstein is the founder of the Kaimana Beach Coalition, which sued the city during the 1990s over its plans to overhaul the Natatorium.
"It's like why (do this), unless there's money to be made," he said.
"The amount of buses and trolleys and trucks … that are needed would close out the community's opportunity to access this beach."
The city hopes to have a draft EIS completed by next summer and hold public hearings next fall.