It’s taken years and millions of dollars, but this Waikiki park is finally taking shape

Published: Jul. 29, 2019 at 6:08 PM HST
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WAIKIKI, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A groundbreaking ceremony took place on Monday for a long-awaited park project in central Waikiki.

The city bought the nearly one-acre lot on Aloha Drive in 2003 for $2.57 million to prevent a high-rise facility from being built.

Without the necessary funding for the construction of a park, however, the parcel was used to stage city equipment for years.

In 2016, the city and the Rotary Club of Honolulu agreed to a public-private partnership for the creation of Centennial Park.

“Too long is really the story of this park. It has been 22 years. We’ve gone through four mayors, and since the Rotary Club took it on, we’ve gone through six presidents and two committee chairs,” said Rob Hale, the club’s centennial park committee chair.

The project has undergone some changes, including a proposed tour bus staging area next to the park along Manukai Street. The city is considering that permit, along with another one for a 10-by-30 foot Hawaiian Electric Co. switching station on the property.

The estimated cost for the creation of the park is a little more than $1.5 million.

The Rotary Club has raised roughly $570,000 so far, but five donors have indicated they want their money back.

“I think that they would like it faster and they were very concerned about the HECO presence in the park,” explained Hale. “The HECO station is less than one percent of the park area.”

The park will be fenced in, with pedestal seats instead of benches.

“We’ve asked the rotary to be sure there’s a fence and lighting. We don’t need it to be a home for the homeless,” said Robert Finley, chair of the Waikiki Neighborhood Board.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the city will monitor the homeless situation and probably close the park at night.

“Maybe some folks who don’t have homes will come in, but I think overall it’s going to be much better than it is today, and we should focus on the positive,” said Caldwell. “It’s incumbent on us to deal with the homeless challenges.”

The park’s first two phases with the fence and much of the greenery are expected to be finished by next May. The project is expected to be entirely completed as early as 2022.

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