A revitalization plan for Kewalo Basin Harbor will be funded entirely by the Howard Hughes Corp. after the board for the Hawaii Community Development Corporation approved a 35-year lease Friday by a vote of 7-0.
Click here to watch Andrew Pereira's report.
The revitalization plan includes up to 100 additional slips, more park space and lots of repairs. Howard Hughes representatives said they are committed to keeping Kewalo a mixed-use commercial small boat harbor, while investing up to $20 million into the 60-acre parcel. The company's vision is to transform the harbor into a gathering place for Kakaako residents and visitors.
"You want to see clean conditions," said Race Randle, senior director of development for Howard Hughes Hawaii. "A very secure place that you feel comfortable walking, biking (or) pushing your baby stroller around."
However, the Kakaako Makai Community Planning Advisory Council asked the HCDA board to delay voting on the lease agreement with Howard Hughes, since the document would not be available to the public until after its approval. The group wrote a letter to Gov. Neil Abercrombie June 26 demanding his intervention. Members also spoke at the HCDA hearing.
"We do not know what this lease will mean for a cohesive planning and development process in the public interest," testified Michelle Matson, a member of the advisory council, who also serves as president of the Oahu Island Parks Conservancy.
HCDA board member Brian Tamamoto reminded testifiers a vote on the Kewalo Basin lease agreement was already delayed June 10. And although imperfect, he believes the process has been transparent, with the first public hearing held in February.
"It's not something that has just been thrown upon us today," said Tamamoto.
Although Kewalo Basin receives more than $1.3 million in annual revenues while expending $632,000 for operations and maintenance, HCDA Executive Director Anthony Ching said the revitalization could not have moved forward without a public-private partnership.
"The infusion of up to $20 million of cash and the continuing commitment to operate and maintain the harbor was so significant, that that's something in which it cries out for partnership," Ching told KITV4.
Under the lease agreement, HCDA will receive an initial payment of $550,000, with as much as $14.4 million in rent over the first 30 years. The agreement is expected to be in place by Aug. 15, and Howard Hughes has the option of extending it another 10 years until 2059.
Meanwhile, Harbor users with slips at Kewalo Basin could see fees increased over the next several years, but rates won't be set by Howard Hughes.
"It's the same, identical for the boaters," said Ching. "They know what it; they know what it is moving forward and that was the subject for much public hearing and debate."
Part of the revitalization plan at Kewalo Basin could include a new wave-abatement structure, but surfers are satisfied Howard Hughes will reach out to them first before moving forward with any plans.
"In the past they have shown that they will reach out to the community and make the process transparent," said Ron Iwami, president of the group Friends of Kewalos. "I feel good about Howard Hughes and how it will progress."
Any wave-abatement structure at Kewalo Basin would also have to undergo an environmental impact statement or environmental assessment, which allows extensive input from the public.
Howard Hughes is already mapping out as many as 22 new residential towers in Kakaako, and believes the lease agreement for Kewalo Basin will benefit both future and current residents.
"For us, it's a place we're willing to put our money into to make sure it becomes that great community amenity," said Randle.