BY JIM DOOLEY – A soaring residential skyscraper that would tower over Honolulu’s highest buildings has been proposed by the state for development on Pohukaina Street in Kakaako.
The building could be as much as 650 feet high – more than 200 feet above the First Hawaiian Bank Center, which at 440 feet is the tallest structure in the Islands.
Called 690 Pohukaina, the project would also include two smaller residential and commercial towers as well as a parking structure and a civic/community center.
Governor Neil Abercrombie praised the proposed project, which won initial approval today from the Hawaii Community Development Authority.
“I think this project is tremendous,” Abercrombie told the HCDA board.
He said it would provide badly needed housing for “the working blue collar and white collar middle class.”
HCDA executive director Anthony Ching said plans call for construction of 204 affordable rental units, 300 affordable housing units and 500 market-priced apartments.
The project’s height and density will allow the private developer, working in partnership with the state, to keep monthly rental prices in the range of $900 for the smallest units to $1,300 for three-bedroom apartments, said Ching.
Dexter Okada of the Kakaako Business and Landowners Association was one of only two speakers to address the board about the project and the only one to raise questions about the impact it will have on its neighbors.
He said he was concerned that the project would have the effect of raising property values and property taxes of small landowners, whose lots are too small to benefit from higher density allowances.
Board chairman Scott Bradley assured Okada that the project is in its earliest stages, with multiple opportunities for community input and criticism before plans are finalized.
Sited along the planned route of the Honolulu Rapid Transit line, the project is envisioned to be a “transit oriented development” that combines high-density residential and commercial structures with access to multiple forms of public transportation.
“This development will provide housing choices and opportunities for a variety of people and families,” said Abercrombie. “But the first thing 690 Pohukaina does is create jobs in construction and business sectors. This is a combination of growing our economy and the creation of a thriving community.”
An already-approved rental housing component of the project is scheduled to break ground early next year.
Ching of HCDA said the agency will seek private development proposals for the remainder of the project and hopes to see completion of construction by 2019.
“A project like this works for everyone,” said Ching. “This will not just be a high-rise; it offers opportunities for a community to interact.”