YMCA investing $1.5M to give new life to a Honolulu park once a source of concern

City, YMCA move forward with controversial plans to renovate public park

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - For years, downtown residents have complained that Kamamalu Park was a magnet for the homeless and drug use in a neighborhood surrounded by schools and businesses.

But the city and the YMCA of Honolulu are close to approving a private-public partnership which aims to make the park safer and attract more people.

“The community will benefit from a reduction in crime and transient activity around the park which will allow better access and usage of the park by recreational users and surrounding schools, churches and community organizations,” said YMCA of Honolulu CEO Michael Broderick.

The YMCA said it will invest $1.5 million to renovate the park and build more than 140 metered, city parking stalls at the park.

The plan also calls for the YMCA to build and maintain a new bathroom close to its own facilities so the organization can provide security.

The existing bathrooms -- which have been a magnet for squatters and criminal activity -- will be renovated but will not be torn down because it has historic value.

The new parking stalls on the makai side of the park will replace little used basketball courts. The 116 metered stalls there will be available for use for the public and the Y’s members.

Another city parking lot on the mauka side will also be expanded for public use.

YMCA members said they support the plan.

“It would be great to make it safer. We don’t use the park because of the homeless, the drug issues," said said Kenny Yuen, a longtime YMCA member.

“We actually use the YMCA quite a bit on our lunch break but we don’t want to come out here.”

Added Tony Baldomero Sr.:

“Anything to help the kids and adults who want to who want to use the park, I’m in favor of,” he said.

But one longtime park user thinks the city is giving up too much park space.

Architect Robert Nitta told the City Council last week that as much as a quarter of the existing park will be used for the new parking stalls.

“If you’re taking away park space from people, then you’re taking away park space from people who can’t afford to go to places like the YMCA," Nitta said.

“They’re taking away basketball courts, which is not right. We’re not going to have much space.”

The city and the YMCA still have to finalize the deal. After that, they need to complete an environmental study and obtain permits.

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