It was standing-room only at a heated Hawaii Kai meeting Thursday night about possible retail development on preservation land.
Its owner, Kamehameha Schools, along with Foodland, pitched their development plans to hundreds of Hawaii Kai residents at the town hall-style meeting at Kamiloiki Elementary School.
The 4 and 1/2 acres of land is across Kalanianaole Highway from Maunalua Bay Beach Park, adjacent to the Hawaii Kai Dog Park.
"Grassy area, definitely good, keep the area cool. A lot of concrete would definitely warm up the place a bit," said Hawaii Kai resident Catherine Wenzl.
There are conflicting opinion polls on the development. Some surveys done by Rep. Gene Ward show overwhelming opposition, while a Kamehameha Schools poll reveals strong support.
Hawaii Kai resident Carolynn Griffith said, "I think we need another shopping center out here. I think we need Foodland out here. I think we need something so that if there is an emergency, we have things available to us."
Lawmakers organized the meeting to hear what the people have to say and to clear the air.
"Right now there's the white crane there that people think Kamehameha Schools is already started building the shopping mall there. In fact, it's for the dredging and for the Hawaii Kai marina," said Rep. Gene Ward.
Foodland Vice Chairman Roger Wall said, "Following the Koko Marina store closure, we were asked by several community members to contact Kamehameha Schools because owned parcels of land throughout Hawaii Kai that offered potential for us. The Kuapa site that we've really focused in we think is the most viable. It's central, it's conveniently located close to the core of Hawaii Kai residents and to us, it's the only site that makes sense."
"It's definitely not a strip mall," Kamehameha Schools Area Development Director Susan Todani said. ”But we're really thinking about a gathering place that's so much more than just retail. We're thinking about combining community amenities, such as a waterfront-recreational path and pedestrian and bike ways and playgrounds. Incorporating the dog park, that's a really important feature to this community."
Both Foodland and Kamehameha Schools say this is far from a done deal and want to hear more from the community. They say if development were to proceed, it would take at least four years to complete.