Big plans afoot for Thomas Square, but some are wary of its future

Big plans afoot for Thomas Square, but some are wary of its future
Updated: Mar. 30, 2017 at 5:59 PM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city is moving forward on its $1 million makeover of historic Thomas Square, but not everyone is on board with the changes.

The six-acre park will have new grass, an irrigation system, and better restrooms.

"There are going to be many more reasons for people to come and visit Thomas Square," said Guy Kaulukukui, director of the city Department of Enterprise Services. The department, which already oversees the zoo and Blaisdell Center, will also take over control of Thomas Square.

"We've got grounds workers, we've got utility workers, we've got janitorial service. We can do all of the things they're doing much easier, much faster and more often," he said.

But the big new plans for the park worry Makiki Neighborhood Board member Sam Mitchell and others.

"They have some good ideas. But the problem is is Enterprise Service wants to commercialize the park and we don't want that," he said.

Mitchell fears the changes will squeeze out local parkgoers.

"By having the park set up in that way it's going to be more for the tourists," he said.

But Kaulukukui said permitted commercial activities are already allowed in parks, including Thomas Square.

Planned additions call for a bandstand for the Royal Hawaiian band and a concession area.

"We are looking at a very tasteful very small concession on the Victoria side of the park that cannot only supply services for people to come to the park but people who work in the general area," he said.

Kaulukukui added the restoration and improvements will make the park more appealing for everyone.

He said they are in accord with an executive order that transferred oversight of the park from the state, and won't change current uses or displace groups that have utilized the park for years.

"We've reaffirmed that there's a place for them when we reopen, and in fact they're sort of what we're considering our anchor tenants," he said.

Future plans are to fly a large Hawaiian flag over Thomas Square and install a statue of King Kamehameha III.

"We're going to bring back the culture, the true essence of what Thomas Square is and stands for. That's where we got our state motto, right there on that exact aina of Thomas Square," city Culture and Arts executive director Misty Kelai said.

The city will have to get more money to do everything it wants to do. The park will reopen to the public by the end of July.

And next year, Thomas Square celebrates its 175th anniversary.

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