Developers ponder idea of hotel at Mayor Wright Homes

Published: Dec. 11, 2014 at 4:18 AM HST|Updated: Dec. 11, 2014 at 8:22 AM HST
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Rep. Karl Rhoads
Rep. Karl Rhoads

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Mayor Wright Homes may be the last place you'd expect to see a hotel, but developers are floating the idea to help pay for the aging housing project's redevelopment.

"I don't know what to think of it because it doesn't make sense to me to have a hotel here," said Carmen Tejada, a longtime Mayor Wright resident.

Added Liliha resident Mike McKeague:

"You put a hotel in Mayor Wright and you're going to do what with all of these people. Are you going to implement low-income housing in that?" he said.

Hunt Companies, McCormack Baron Salazar and Vitus Group, which were selected by the state to rebuild Mayor Wright, said the concept is preliminary. The state says it will only consider it if developers greatly increased the number of  low-income housing units they plan to build.

"The likelihood of the hotel is very low," said Hakim Ouansafi, executive director of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority.

"But in any business transaction we don't rule out every single thing. If the developer can build us a couple of thousand affordable units ... we'll certainly sit down and talk about it."

The developers plan to knock down all 364 units at the aging, crime-ridden project and build more than 1,200 low and moderate income homes and retail.

But the group still has to negotiate a development deal with the state, which could nix the idea of a hotel on the 21-acre parcel.

While the idea is unique, some see demand for the project -- especially after the rail transit system is completed in 2019. There's just one business hotel downtown: the Executive Center on Bishop Street.

"Most (low-income) housing in the state of Hawaii ... if there's a way to cross subsidize within the project it's okay," said state Rep. Karl Rhoads.

"But if  it's just a way for the developer to make more money and not provide the affordable housing we need, then I'm skeptical."

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