Planning the future of a popular Honolulu park, by looking to its historic past.

Thomas Square is set to get a major makeover, but after unveiling improvements to the public -- city leaders got an earful Tuesday evening over the plans.

Thomas Square is filled with history. "What is historic about it is: It is where King Kamehameha III had his monarchy restored," said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

A brief British occupation in 1843 ended with the Kingdom of Hawaii being restored by Admiral Richard Thomas where the park is now located.

But in more recent times, Thomas Square has a history of poor park maintenance.

"I've been going to the park for 30 years, and it has never been maintained properly. The fountain is stench-ridden and when it is on, it is green," said Honolulu resident Irv King.

The city has plans to fix the fountain, beautify the park and encourage more people to use it -- with a renovation that includes a statue of King Kamehameha III and a flagpole for the Hawaiian flag.

"I like the fact the park is being upgraded. I like the fact history is honored with the statue of Kamehameha and there will be a Hawaiian flag at the park," said Honolulu resident Lei Momi Khan.

The renovations have a multi-million dollar price tag, but there will also be another cost: the use of the park for six months.

"For the first phase of renovations, the park is expected to be closed the second week of August and stay closed until February of 2017. That is to complete the irrigation and grassing project," said Enterprise Services Director Guy Kaulukukui.

While the park is shut down, the city will also be working on specific rules for Thomas Square. The park will be under the Department of Enterprise Services instead of the Parks Department. Along with the rules, there will also be rates set for permits at the park.

"Anytime you upgrade anything there are costs involved and those costs are often passed onto the users. I would hate to see the costs passed onto them and then possibly resulting in their inability to use the park," said Momi Khan.

The city has big plans for the historic park that used to draw a crowd coming to cool off in the fountain under the shade of the banyan trees.
In the city's plan a bandstand would be added to bring in more cultural events and performances. There would also be more landscaping for the 6.5 acre park.

But some residents are still looking for assurances that after the big project is done, the city will still take care of the little things.

"I would just like to know that when they put this design in there is adequate maintenance, that's my concern," stated King.

The mayor said he would like to have the first and second phase of renovations done by the 175th anniversary of the restoration, which is 2018. In order to do that, it would need nearly $2-million more to put in paths and restore rest rooms. 

City Council members will decide if the money makes it into the city's budget when they take a final vote on Wednesday.