Kamehameha Schools has suspended its plans to develop a 4.5-acre property at the entrance to Hawaii Kai into a strip mall with Foodland grocery store as its anchor tenant.
The property, known as “the Great Lawn,” is just across from the popular Maunalua Bay used by paddlers, fisherman and boaters, and on the edge of the Hawaii Kai marina where many homes are built.
The great lawn is designated as “preservation” land and residents and area lawmakers and the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board strongly opposed any plans to rezone the area to commercial and develop one of the few remaining parcels of land in the east Oahu community.
Rep. Gene Ward, Sen. Sam Slom and Sen. Laura Thielen, who represent Hawaii Kai in the state legislature, openly opposed the project, as did the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board. The legislators all wrote to the Honolulu City Council members asking them not to rezone the property, while the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board passed a July 31 resolution in support of keeping the land as preservation.
The legislators and the neighborhood board also held a community meeting on March 21 to hear from Kamehameha Schools, Foodland and residents about the impact of the project on the community. Community opposition at the meeting was overwhelming with nearly all 400 people in attendance opposing the project. Kamehameha Schools claimed to have had conducted a poll showing more than 70 percent of the community was in support of the project, but Rep. Gene Ward said he had conducted a poll that showed just the opposite results.
Honolulu City Council Member Stanley Chang angered many constituents when he didn’t join the area lawmakers in outright opposition for the project and instead appeared to side with Kamehameha Schools.
In a press release issued Thursday, June 13, Chang acknowledged his office received “several comments from concerned residents regarding the proposed plans.”
Chang said Kamehameha Schools told him “a suspension was warranted which would allow them more time to direct resources to other projects in the state in alignment with their existing asset management plan. …. (and) consider the Kuapa property in the broader context of other holdings in Maunalua.”
Sen. Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai, has heard from many of his constituents who oppose the project and said it was “good news” that the development has been suspended.
“I came out publicly in opposition to this change more than a year ago, supported the Resolution adopted by the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board last July, and spoke out at the Town Meeting this past March. The community has been solidly opposed to this proposed development,” Slom said.
Slom called it “a good example of citizen power and the fact that one can ‘fight City Hall’ if involved.”
The idea for the development arose in 2011 when the heavily trafficked Foodland grocery store lost its lease in the Koko Marina Shopping Center leaving just one grocery store in the populated community. Many residents want the store to return but they want it placed in one of the four existing shopping malls.
“Let me reiterate that I do support the re-entry of Foodland into a commercial zone within our community. We need the shopping choice and competition,” Slom said.
The way the change in plans was announced has Slom and other residents on alert, however.
“I do find it interesting that the statement came from “Councilmember Chang’s office, and not Kamehameha Schools directly to the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board or community and further, that they are “suspending” not ending, all plans to develop the preservation area. So, while this is good news today, the community, and its elected officials must remain vigilant for any future change in plans by KSBE or others,” Slom said.
Ward acknowledged “this has been a long battle between the people of Hawaii Kai and the biggest private trust in the United States, but it is over for now.”
“I am grateful to the people of Hawaii Kai for coming to the defense of the aesthetics, traffic congestion and wise land-use planning for their community. A shopping mall on the Great Lawn would have been the end of Hawaii Kai as we know it.”