Buzz over Point Panic presidential building growing

Published On: May 21 2013 06:22:20 AM HST   Updated On: May 21 2013 08:14:53 AM HST

It's pumping at Point Panic thanks to the first south swell of the summer.

It is a commanding view for a possible Presidential Center on a 7-acre site.

"Hawaii seems to be very proud Obama and he is a body surfer, so that would make sense. We like to see Kakaako evolving more. We like the neighborhood and its a nice spot for families to hang out," said Kristine Hess.

Interest is up.

Surfers say the governor and Sen. Brian Shatz stopped by for a site visit just last week.

On Thursday, the agency that oversees the area will unveil plans for development a rapid transit train could bring to Kaka'ako as well as a new building in President Obama's honor, whether it be a library or a museum or a think tank.

"We are hoping it does dovetail nicely with rail," said University of Hawaii  American Studies professor Robert Perkinson.

There's a medical school and the Children's Discovery Center on one side and a marine lab on the other.

The key is to tap the synergy in a plan that will meet with the president's approval.

"We don’t know how the pieces will all fit together, but I think we have a great site in a way because Kakaako Makai is owned and managed by a lot of organizations that have education and advocacy as their mission," said Perkinson.

Perkinson envisions a plan for the area that would ensure public access to the prime surf spot and more.

"We hope it will be a model of sustainable architecture and showcase advanced technologies for building responsibly in the age of climate change and rising sea levels," said Perkinson.

"This has been an open community-oriented effort to really pull  all the diverse things in Hawaii.  So we are looking at pulling all the strengths of a partnership  of the university that could work  here, that could also work with a library and museum that is off-island," said UH law professor Maxine Burkett.

Hints that the site may not be a library?  One foot in the islands, another in Chicago.  Planning is underway for that possibility.

Surfer Kawika Matsu said his mom, a Big Island librarian, can't wait.

"She wants to know when they are going to start. When are they going to break ground are they really going to do it?" Matsu said.

On Tuesday, Punahou School plays host to a gathering of business leaders who will weigh on the proposed Presidential Center.

It is one of several brainstorming sessions.

Perkins said his team has tapped educators and artists and will assemble a group of environmental experts soon.


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