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Kaka'ako vision for transit oriented development released

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: May 22 2013 10:06:04 PM HST
Updated On: May 23 2013 08:03:51 AM HST

At least three skyscrapers are preparing to soar high above the current building height limits.

HONOLULU -

On top of Hawaii's tallest building are sets of red flashing lights that are checked every night to make sure airplanes know how far away they are from the rooftop.

The First Hawaiian Bank building is 429 feet tall.

It is sometimes called the credit card building because of its slender tower.

That’s a profile that the Hawaii Community Development Authority envisions for the increased density in Kaka'ako.

Click here to see the Transit Oriented Development Plan.

The city's current height limit is 400 feet.

A few exceed that.

But new buildings in Kaka'ako could dwarf it.  At least three new proposals call for 700 foot towers.

"We didn't say double it, go to 800, but we said that is a practical limit that’s what we are feeling," said HCDA executive director Tony Ching.

The Honolulu chapter of the Architects Institute of America hasn't taken a position on a height limit.

Some say the Kaka'ako height limit proposals are "willy-nilly."

"Right now there is too much ad hoc calling out of a new height limit, with no look at the overall skyline and what you are creating," said Scott Wilson.

Click here to take our online poll about building heights.

Back the 1920's the Aloha Tower used to be the tallest building.

The iconic art deco structure created quite a stir in its day.

But now from the top of the tallest building, it's looking up at so many others.

The AIA says at one point, the idea was to keep height limits between 300 to 400 feet high.

That’s well below the Diamond Head profile which stands at 761 feet high.

The thinking back then?

"Let's protect our views of Diamond Head. Obviously keeping it roughly half the height of Diamond Head really works.  Diamond Head really stands out," said Wilson.

But HCDA says there's a positive tradeoff.

For example, to get a skyscraper at the Neal Blaisdell Center, developers might have to make-over the arena and the concert hall.

"The notion is, we need to give some sort of premium, some sort of value that would give them some sort of incentive," Ching said.

He points to a map of areas in green where he said higher residential high-rises could work.

"Not the whole district seemingly changing everything, but maintaining what is there, and showing that this is the area that logically we should be covering," Ching said.

HCDA released a proposed vision for Transit Oriented Development in the Kaka'ako area Thursday.

It will hold the first of four open house meetings on the TOD proposal on Thursday starting at 5:30 p.m. at its Cooke street office.

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