Shortened rail route could pose challenges for housing market
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There are more than $20 billion worth of transit oriented developments planned along the rail line from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center. But experts said that stopping it at Middle Street is going to be devastating for some of these projects.
"It's a game changer between Middle Street particularly as you go through Kalihi and then on the other side Kakaako," said real estate expert Ricky Cassiday. "It's not quite as as bad as A&B sugar going out of commission. This won't leave a hole of that magnitude. But it does require some changes and it requires a reorientation of the bigger goals."
Cassiday said future affordable housing and work-force housing will be the most affected. Entry level housing in Kakaako that's already broken ground will likely be completed. But after that, most of the housing built there will be luxury condos.
"What you would then have is off shore guys and wealthier guys living there," he said. Redevelopment projects in Kalihi's Kapalama district, Mayor Wright housing and even the former Kamehameha Drive in Aiea will need to be reconfigured, he said.
But Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the timetable for many of these transit oriented developments are many years away, which gives the city time to find the money to complete the project to Ala Moana Center.
"I'm not saying we should slow down on purchasing the properties or that we should slowdown on planning for TOD for the full 20 miles. Our planning department will continue to do that," he said.
Rail officials said they will complete land purchases that are now in the pipeline. But they will suspend activity on new condemnation proceedings and land deals that haven't gotten off the ground yet. A spokesman for the rail authority said the suspension will be in place at least until it can work out a recovery plan with federal transit authorities.
While stopping the rail at Middle Street will hurt housing development, it's a huge relief for many small businesses along the rail line. Real estate expert Stephany Sofos noted how rail construction along Kamehameha Highway in Aiea and Pearl City hurt customer traffic to many small businesses in those areas. Many of those Kalihi small businesses now hope the Middle Street station is a final stop for the rail line, and not just a pause in construction.
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