Historic News Building Threatened by Developer
Public Hearing scheduled for October 2;
Here’s a copy of my testimony AGAINST the 2nd phase of this project, which, in addition to demolishing the South Street half of the 1929 News Building, also requests modifications to a number of requirements, including:
- Parking lot height limits (107 ft requested instead of 45 ft allowed)
- Street trees and landscaping requirements modified including 6 ft fences instead of 3ft
I write to the Hawaii Community Development Authority and its Board to oppose the second phase of development at the 801 South Street project led by Downtown Capital, LLC.
My opposition to this second phase of the project stems from three main concerns.
1. The approval process for the entire 801 South Street project has been improperly ramming through state agencies, without regard for protocols in-place to protect the longterm and broader interests of all people of the State.
Downtown Capitalʻs ad in the Oct. 1 issue of the Star Advertiser states, “When the State approves our projects, we start building them.”
The State is not a single amorphous entity. In a letter to Director Ching, dated August 29th, 2009, the State Historic Preservation Department voiced opposition to the fact that the Printing Press Building was demolished without following State mandated processes. To quote the said SHPD letter, “neither the owners [of 801 South Street] nor HCDA followed the Statutes or the Administrative Rules and our written request for consultation and mitigation was ignored.”
Do not think that this group developing 801 S. Street should be given any awards or free passes for creating “affordable housing.” The least expensive unit, a 377 sq ft studio on the 2nd floor, is over a quarter million dollars - $671/sq ft. Thatʻs a mortgage and fees payment of over $1200 a month - not exactly affordable.
The “State” is made up of a diverse array of agencies and even more diverse array of citizens - all of whom are entitled to a voice in such a large development at a site that connects key corridors of our city.
2. The poor design of the 801 S. Street project is anathema to the complete streets and new, vibrant urban community we are trying to build in Kaka’ako.
All of Marshall Hung and Associates’ project are cookie cutter concrete behemoths. They are uninspired design euphemistically described as workforce housing.
1448 Young St
1450 Young St
1133 Waimanu Street
Country Club Village
215 North King Street
These buildings are all known for killing street and pedestrian life around them. Is there any wonder that Pawaa Park, in the shadows on Hungʻs 1448 and 1450 Young Street projects, sustained a large homeless and vagrant community for so long? The same is the case for 215 North King Street, just a stone’s throw from vibrant Chinatown, yet dead on the street outside the building. The poor design of Marshall Hungʻs building projects do not make any authentic attempt to engage and contribute to the street life around them.
This may be good enough for other parts of town, but this is not good enough for Kakaʻako. We want lively streets throughout the neighborhood for pedestrians and bikes that alleviate our traffic and health problems and are an AFFORDABLE way to get around town. We want street-facing options for small business that enliven the neighborhood and thus create wealth, not just maintain the status quo cost of living, which we all know is not economically sustainable for this state.
3. Demolition of the remaining piece of the 1929 news building will destroy yet another culturally and historically significant landmark in our city that gives us a connection to our past and will destroy an opportunity to create a culturally and economically vibrant corridor along South Street.
Sure, the front side of the new building is being preserved and restored. However, we cannot give full credit to Downtown Capital when theyʻre only planning on doing part of the work.
Developers in every other city have found ways to make heaps of profit by capitalizing on the unique character, uncommon proportions and engaging streetfronts that historic structures alone offer. So I do not believe that the demo of the back portion is totally driven by cost. Rather, it is driven by lack of vision, lack of imagination or creativity. Or perhaps it is driven by a development team made up entirely of men over 40 who are entirely out of touch with the reality around them, so much so that the example propped up in their full-page ad about 801 S. Street is ” a young single mom with a start-up business.” I’m a co-founder of a 12-month old, Kaka‘ako-based start-up and I can attest that a young single person with a start-up makes $0 income and does not qualify for a mortgage.
Either way, the demolition of the back side of the news building is not only killing the full cultural significance of the new buildingʻs historic place of operations, which is as much a part of recording and reporting our Stateʻs history as the front of the building was. Perhaps even worse, the further demolition kills any possibility for Kaka’ako and all Honolulu residents to create a culturally significant and economically vibrant future from the unique architecture and spaces of the remainder of the building.
I thank the Hawaii Community Development Authority for facilitating this public comment process, and for their willingness to work with so many disparate groups and individuals to realize conscientious transformation in Kaka’ako.