The Crown Jewels – Kakaʻako Makai

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Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey, Trustee, Maui

As you have probably already noticed, this edition of the Ka Wai Ola is heavily focused on OHA’s Hawaiian lands located on Oʻahu in Kakaʻako Makai.

OHA’s Kakaʻako Makai lands are the gateway from the downtown urban core of Honolulu to the waterfront, to the commercial and residential lands in Ala Moana, and to the premiere Hawaiʻi tourism destination known as Waikïkï.

Our Kakaʻako trust lands are the “crown jewels” of urban Honolulu today, and the gateway to OHA’s future and our ability to assist Hawaiians who depend upon us to improve their lives through the numerous programs we fund and deliver to the community. OHA has the awesome opportunity to invent a unique waterfront dream; a “Shangri-La” on our Kakaʻako Makai lands that sets the standard for a world-class destination.

We acquired these 30 acres in Kakaʻako Makai so that we could make them productive in perpetuity to serve the needs of our beneficiaries. It is now time for us to build a bridge between our Hawaiian culture, and the economic development and stewardship that will sustain and grow our ability to help more Hawaiians in the future.

OHA’s Board of Trustees has created a working group consisting of three other trustees and myself to flesh out ideas and plan for the development and future use of these lands. This group will report to the full board and we will collectively decide how to proceed. Our OHA trustees are committed to action.

At the same time, proposals are being advanced in the State Legislature to provide fairness for Hawaiians so that OHA may build residential housing on their land in the same way that developers across Ala Moana Boulevard are able to do. If the Kakaʻako and Ala Moana ma uka owners have the opportunity to develop their property for residential use, then why shouldn’t OHA be afforded that same opportunity to build residential housing and grow their assets for their Hawaiian beneficiaries?

Senate Bill 1334 would provide equitable land use relief for OHA by allowing it to build residential housing on some of its trust lands, while raising the allowable height for two of its lots from 200 to 400 feet. Passing this parity land use bill would allow Hawaiians the same privileges afforded other property owners on the ma uka side of Ala Moana Boulevard.

OHA is an experienced and conscientious land steward with a portfolio of lands managed in collaboration with many community and governmental partners.

Some of these wahi pana of great cultural significance are the Palauea Cultural Preserve on Maui, the Wao Kele O Puna lands located on Hawaiʻi, and Waimea Valley, Pahua Heiau and Kükaniloko, all located on Oʻahu. Our successful management of Waimea Valley has demonstrated that cultural stewardship and economic sustainability can co-exist.

OHA is also a seasoned commercial land manager and owns Nā Lama Kukui on Nimitz Highway where its home offices are now housed. This retail and commercial office building has a 100 percent occupancy rate with a long waiting list. In combination with our tenant leases for our leased commercial lands located in Kakaʻako Makai, OHA is now generating over $5 million in net operating income per year.

We intend to use our management and stewardship abilities to build a tasteful and much needed “Hawaiian sense of place” that is at the crossroads of light rail, job creation and job centers, shopping, recreation, restaurants, housing, and tourism, is infused with our Hawaiian ways of knowing, and is a gathering place for all of Hawaiʻi’s people and visitors.

We need your help. Please testify and support passage of SB 1334.