With rail almost ready to roll, Kapolei wonders how much development is too much

Updated: Nov. 22, 2019 at 5:46 AM HST
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KAPOLEI, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Construction on the city’s rail project began in East Kapolei after ground was broken in 2011. Now, the city has to update its Transit Oriented Development plan, because a lot of growth has happened in the area since then.

The city’s original draft was completed nearly a decade ago, in 2010. There wasn’t much around at the time.

“When we first built the place, there was nothing here," said Phil Lum of the Salvation Army Kroc Center. “So people were saying, ‘What are you doing in the middle of nowhere?” There’s just a bunch of dirt out there.’”

Now, the transformation is underway, nearly everywhere you look. The Kroc Center is thriving with 12,000 members; the rail’s starting point, the East Kapolei Station, is right next door. Ka Makana Alii is just down Kaluakai Parkway, on Hawaiian Homes Land. U.H. West Oahu is in its seventh year on its Kapolei campus, with plans to expand. And 600 families have already moved into D.R. Horton’s Hoopili community, which is still under construction.

None of those developments was in the original T.O.D. draft, so the city is now getting input on an updated plan.

“It’s a chance to really develop a new community, based on the character and Hawaiian values and that sort of stuff,” said the Harrison Rue, the city’s T.O.D. administrator. "It kinda aligns with Kapolei, the Second City vision."

One big question asked of residents was how high to build. The city asked if 20-story buildings would be okay for the area, but most residents preferred nine stories or less.

“Some of the things that they’re talking about and some of the additional high rises, etc., that all sounds exciting but what is that actually going to look like and how is that going to impact residents that are already here?” asked longtime Makakilo resident Vickie Kam.

“We have to think bigger than just trying to build more, build more, build more, because we are land finite. We are resource finite," said Tiare, a Kapolei resident who asked only to use her first name. She added that the money for rail could have been used more wisely for affordable housing or education.

One census estimate counted approximately 107,000 residents in the Kapolei area in 2015. This is their chance to shape the community before more buildings go up.

“It remains to be seen what happens, but we’re excited for new opportunities for us,” said Lum.

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