Locals frustrated with project to save historic trees at popular Waikiki parking lot

First phase slated to finish around Thanksgiving

 UPDATED 8:16 PM HST Jul 27, 2013
HONOLULU -

A construction project at a popular Waikiki parking lot is causing some headaches for people who use the popular Waikiki Shell and Kapiolani Park.

It's a project that's been in the works for a decade. The city said it is needed to save historic trees.

Parking at Kapiolani Park is already at a premium, but with construction taking over half the lot, some have resorted to calling on some higher help.

“So we actually said a prayer and my husband was able to find parking,” said Rita Sotelo.

Park users like the Sotelo family are also having to use patience, with the city only halfway through a renovation project.

It is the first makeover for the area in front of the Waikiki Shell and Kapiolani Bandstand since it was built.

“There’s going to be some new sidewalks, new drop off, loading and unloading area, bicycle racks, motorcycle parking. So it will look very nice in the front,” said Mark Yonamine, deputy director for the city’s Department of Design and Construction.

The city said the main reason for the work is saving the trees: monkeypods -- planted more than 30 years ago.

But over the years, the trees have grown so much, they’ve uprooted the asphalt, causing it to crack.

The parking lot is being raised to cover the roots, giving the trees more room to grow.

Drainage is also being added with filters for the runoff. 

This is only the first phase, which is expected to be done around Thanksgiving.

The second phase starts up around January after the Honolulu Marathon.

Still, vendors like those at the monthly Art Fest at Kapiolani Park said construction is hurting business.

“I think it’s going to kill us,” said Tammy Miyake, a jeweler who has a booth at the Art Fest. “We have a following and we all want to encourage people to keep coming back every month. A lot of them come, and say they can’t park.” 

The work also poses a parking problem for other major events like the Okinawan festival in September.

“We tried our best to accommodate everybody. So that’s why we phased the project,” said Yonamine.

The city said it has taken 10 years of planning to get this project underway.

But saving the trees will come with a sacrifice -- and likely more prayer and patience required.

There will be 34 fewer stalls when the project is complete.  

The cost for the entire parking lot construction project is $3.3 million.

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