OHA tries yet again to get permission to build on its Kakaako Makai land

It’s almost been as long since OHA has tried to get the state to allow residential developments on its property.
Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 9:40 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It’s been more than a decade since the state conveyed 30 acres of land in Kakaako Makai to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to settle a ceded lands dispute.

It’s almost been as long since OHA has tried to get the state to allow residential developments on its property.

The original valuation of the land was close to $200 million -- but that was based on residential property being built on it. But that’s been banned since 2005 after another development dispute, before OHA got the land it now calls Hakuone.

“Hakuone is Hawaiian land, yet here we are once again, asking legislators for permission to develop our land,” OHA Board Chair Hulu Lindsey told members of two state senate committees Wednesday.

Many of those parcels now sit largely empty, while luxury high-rise condominiums have been build on the mauka side of Ala Moana Boulevard, with more still going up.

“Fair is fair,” said Mahealani Cypher of the Koolau Foundation Board. “HCDA let all those mauka buildings go up with, to me, not that many restrictions. And now they’re putting all these restrictions on the makai buildlings.”

“What’s protecting the makai side is the law,” said Ron Iwami of the group Friends of Kewalos, which has opposed attempts year after year to allow residential development on the land. They also plan another public meeting Monday to outline their opposition.

Iwami said he fears more high-rises going up in Kakaako Makai, since part of the agreement includes buildings as high as 400 feet.

“Eventually, if OHA gets the repeal of their nine properties, they have the chance to build nine towers,” Iwami said.

Meanwhile, OHA has been airing a series of television ads to drum up support for its development plans, which a spokesperson said are being mischaracterized by opponents, including Friends of Kewalos.

The state senate’s Water and Land and Hawaiian Affairs committees deferred action on the bill allowing residential development until after another hearing, scheduled next week Thursday at the State Capitol.

Lindsey pleaded with lawmakers to pass the measure.

“All we are asking is for justice for Hawaiians. Justice for Hawaiians from their own state government. Justice for Hawaiians in our own native land.”