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Lawmakers seek land transfer to help move Hawaiian Homelands beneficiaries off waitlist

UH wants to use the land for education, but lawmakers want a residential tower.
Published: Feb. 21, 2022 at 10:43 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A bill that would transfer land owned by the University of Hawaii to the state Department of Hawaiian Homelands is moving forward in the state Legislature.

The land is open lot across from the Kapiolani Community College near the Diamond Head Theatre.

UH wants to use the land for education, but lawmakers want a residential tower.

“The usual problem has been that no one ... has made any serious efforts to better utilize these properties,” said state Rep. Bertrand Kobayashi of the Committee on Water and Land.

According to the Attorney General’s Office, the Board of Regents would need to approve any land transfer to the Department of Hawaiian Homelands — or the Legislature could force its purchase.

“Through eminent domain, in which case, the university would need to be paid just compensation for the taking,” state deputy Attorney General Craig Iha said.

UH leaders object to that because they’re already looking for a private sector partner to develop the land before the end of the year.

DHHL would love the land to help move some of the nearly 29,000 beneficiaries off the waitlist for homes.

“We stand in strong support of this bill,” said DHHL Chairman William J. Aila. “I would also point out that this is along the transit corridor.”

“So, it provides a unique opportunity to go vertically up and get more units.”

The agency is increasingly focused on building high-rises as a more cost-effective way of providing homes. In Moiliili, the old Bowl-A-Drome is turning into a tower which will have 270 apartments.

The $137 million project should be finished in about two years.

The bill to give DHHL the land near KCC is now headed to the finance committee.

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