Gov backs off push for tallest state high rise

Published On: Mar 04 2014 12:00:00 AM HST   Updated On: Mar 04 2014 08:23:00 PM HST

A proposed plan on the table would allow up to three high rises of up to 700 feet in the Kakaako area.

Click here to watch Catherine Cruz's story.

A state project - 690 Pohukaina was the first tower that Governor Neil Abercrombie suggested be allowed to go exceed the current 400-foot limit.

In December 2012, developer Forest City proposed building the tallest building in the state, or possibly two smaller ones.

Now, the governor says he's not focused on pushing the height limits. 

"The height is less of interest to me, than the capacity to build the rentals. I am happy to go along with whatever the development board, the HCDA wants to do in terms of if it's a lower height, or more buildings. That's fine with me," said Gov. Abercrombie.

Abercrombie said his priority is for housing, not height.

"The height issue is strictly from the point of view-- how can we get the most rentals out of it.  I am aiming for 800 rentals," said the governor.

690 Pokukaina which will rise up next to Mother Waldron Park, is supposed to provide a mix of affordable and market rentals.

The initial suggestion that it be allowed to go up to 650 feet raised Cain with area residents.

"The only reason you go think about going high is to provide financing to do that. If the legislature will help us to build up our housing trust funds, if we can get support necessary to get an understanding that building housing for the working middle class is important, than height will be secondary," said Abercrombie.

Forest City president Jon Wallenstrom said Tuesday that the company is interested in developing an attractive building that will house Hawaii's residents and that he agreed with the governor -- height is secondary.

The company is working with the HCDA to reach a development agreement.

The HCDA says it is close to securing one.

Meanwhile, the city is exploring what's needed to overhaul the aging Blaisdell Center, and that could come with another skyscraper.

Plans could include a 700-foot residential tower as an enticement for perspective developers.

"I am not wedded to 700 feet or 400 feet. What would be the most appropriate use of the site working with our community to make sure they are comfortable with what goes there," said Mayor Kirk Caldwell.



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