First step for Neil Blaisdell Center redo

Published On: Mar 07 2014 08:15:00 PM HST

A leaky roof, not enough bathrooms, food concessions or parking are part of the reality of a trip to the Neil Blaisdell  Center.

Click here to watch Catherine Cruz' story.

But if a major redo is in the cards how does a cash-strapped city pay for it?

"We own the land, and we are going to pay for part of the building, but how could the private sector help?,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

The dream is for an iconic state -of-the-art arts center.

"We have the arena. We have the exhibition hall. We have the concert hall.  We could reconfigure. Maybe the arena is moved to the center of the block. For me, I’d like to see more green space," said Caldwell.

To help pay for the plan, some cities have promoters pay a seat tax, although it could drive up the price of a show. In other venues, it's a cultural tax of a penny or more to offset programs or to pay for upkeep.

"So in many instances, that allows us to operate in the black and have money left over to do the required maintenance," said Ginger White-Brunetti, a Denver resident with the Urban Land Institute.

And while the NBC falls within the Kakaako District, the mayor said just because the agency that oversees it, is suggesting that the city consider allowing a developer to build a 700-foot residential tower to help in the overhaul, doesn’t mean that's what's going to happen.

HDCA staff were on hand as the team of planners and experts from the Institute shared their overview of what could be done to create a revitalized arts district.

"I believe there is understanding that this is an opportunity for the whole city to benefit so we should work together and we must work together," said Tony Ching, executive director of the Hawaii Community Development Authority.

The mayor said the process for deciding how to transform this district is key.

The Urban Land Institute sees it as an opportunity to link the Capitol district and Chinatown along a cultural arts path that includes McKinley High School and dovetails with rail and the plans for Kakaako Mauka and Makai.

To some it’s all about branding and building on what's already there.

"Right now, the mall exists through River Street, Chinatown through downtown to the Capitol district. How wonderful it would be to add one more block and this arts complex they are talking about," said Henry Ing, former city planning director.

The city is already working toward that end expanding the sidewalk behind Honolulu Hale to allow for bike path that would encourage access to Thomas Square and the steps of the Blaisdell Center.


While we are seeing rapid rise of new buildings in Kakaako, the mayor said

the NBC redo isn't going to happen overnight.

Expect to see a series of town hall meetings as the vision for the culture and arts district takes shape.






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