Honolulu mayor open to skyscraper at Blaisdell Center

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: May 23 2013 06:00:50 PM HST
Updated On: May 24 2013 07:25:13 AM HST

Consider it the price of progress for developers eager to get in on the upcoming building boom in Kakaako. But in order to take buildings to all new heights, developers might have to come through with some pricey perks for the surrounding area.

HONOLULU -

Honolulu's mayor recalls coming to his first concert at the Blaisdell to see Jimi Hendrix.

“I remember going into the arena and it was like a spaceship, and I was like wow, this is amazing,” said Kirk Caldwell.

But that was a long time ago.

The Blaisdell Center is about 50 years old and it’s already been renovated once. In fact the city has been weighing its future and the mayor has put money in the budget for a master plan.

"We are looking at how we can make better use of this site. This is our cultural and arts district," the mayor said.

The new transit development plans for Kaka'ako offer the carrot of a 700-foot-high skyscraper, provided the public gets some benefit.

"In an area where density makes sense we will allow them to utilitze that density by going higher to  which they will provide for benefits we do not have, or for  things they can help pay for,”said Tony Ching, executive director of the Hawaii Community Development Authority.

"I would love to see this site redeveloped so we can right size it for a symphony and also have a separate place for Broadway plays, so we are not competing with each other, and of course a new arena with dressing rooms for the first-rate acts coming into town," the mayor said.

But some community watchdog groups aren't convinced a super tower is the right way to do it.

It was only last year the state proposed 690 Pohukaina -- the state high-rise that would be allowed to exceed the 400-foot height limit by 250 feet.

"Now to come out that far and away exceeds that, in the height and the number of buildings. It's kind of frightening to see what kind of change will be coming to Honolulu," said Bob Loy of the Outdoor Circle.

The HCDA transit development plans will still need to go through an environmental impact review. If the EIS supports the vision, rules will have to be developed to allow for the plan to kick in.

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