City, YMCA sign agreement aimed at revitalizing Kamamalu Park

City, YMCA sign agreement aimed at revitalizing Kamamalu Park
A new partnership between the city and the YMCA will revitalize one of Oahu's oldest playgrounds. (Source: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city and the YMCA of Honolulu have signed an agreement for new facilities at Kamamalu Park, which is located next to the Nuuanu YMCA on the edge of downtown.

The park is one of Oahu’s oldest playground locations.

Under the $1.5 million agreement, the YMCA will fund a new comfort station, a new 110-stall metered parking lot on the Queen Emma Street side of the park, new security lighting and improved landscaping.

The YMCA will also expand and restripe the existing parking lot, located mauka of the Nuuanu YMCA facility.

“This brings the restrooms closer to the YMCA so we can service it, and the YMCA will service it and restock it and also maintain the general area,” said YMCA of Honolulu board member Lance Wilhelm. “The city will maintain the utilities themselves,” including the electricity and water.

The proposed restroom will replace a comfort station, built with stones, next to Queen Emma Street. Residents said it was overrun by the homeless and drug dealers, and is now closed and surrounded by a chain-link fence.

It’s a historic structure that cannot be torn down, so the city is looking to repurpose it.

“We’re looking at different types, like facilities, classrooms, we’re looking at storage areas," said city Parks and Recreation Director Michele Nekota. “We just need to hear from the public.”

The Y has already planned a major renovation at the Nuuanu YMCA, which has become more heavily-used after a deal to build a new Central YMCA facility in the Ala Moana area fell through in 2016. The YMCA is now preparing to sell that property.

“We’re not looking to add or taking anything else away from the park,” said YMCA of Honolulu Executive Vice President and C.O.O. Mike Doss. “Essentially the renovation that will be taking place at the Y will be within the existing footprint.”

There are some who are concerned, including former governor and longtime Nuuanu YMCA member Neil Abercrombie. He praised the intentions of the YMCA and the city, but still had questions and wanted more public input.

“We don’t see how a municipal parking lot is going to be able to deal with the parking requirements of a refurbished Y,” said Abercrombie. “Nothing has been discussed with the community at all.”

The Y and the city said the public-private partnership should bring more people to the park, which is close to residences and condominiums, and is bordered by two schools.

“We work very closely with Central Middle School and Royal Elementary School and the principals have let us know that the park is not the most desirable to go to sometimes because of some of the folks who have decided to make this sort of their pseudo home,” said Doss.

“Just a bunch of homeless people and people staying in the bathroom. Yeah. Didn’t look safe before," said park user Colin Yamashita. He said he brought his family to the park Friday afternoon after spotting the city’s newly-installed playground equipment. He decided to bring his young daughter there to play, and thinks the plans are a good idea.

“Cool, because (we should) put it to good use, and if they need the parking or to get this place going with families again, that would be cool,” Yamashita said.

The public will still get a chance to comment, since the city council still needs to approve the proposal. If it goes according to plan, the YMCA hopes to have construction completed by summer of 2021.

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