Could Kalihi become the new Kakaako? Governor unveils vision for future development


Could Kalihi be the new Kakaako?

With plans to move the aging Oahu Community Correctional Center currently in the works, Gov. David Ige has had his eye on upgrading the neighborhood, especially with plans for the rail to pass through.

He formed the Kalihi 21st Century Transformation Initiative’s Vision Committee to come up with a newer, better Kalihi.

The committee consisted of members from both public and private sectors. Community members also had opportunities to provide their input at three public informational meetings at Farrington High School.

Fifty thousand dollars and one year later, Ige unveiled the final vision report in a press conference Tuesday.

“A lot of people compare Kalihi to Kakaako. The way I see it, Kalihi is already Kalihi. It’s already a place where people live, work, and play,” said April Bautista, who worked alongside state officials to create the vision for Kalihi’s future. She calls herself a proud Kalihi resident and millennial.

Bautista likens Kalihi’s future to a more trendy version of the current neighborhood’s vibe.

“I can see that happening, but I know during the planning process, everyone made it clear. We want to keep the mom and pop shops there,” she said.

The plan for a neighborhood made up of mostly working-class families includes more economic development, affordable housing, and a safer, healthier Kalihi community.

The state envisions a Kalihi with more high-rises fit for families, singles, and kupuna. Expect more parks, recreational and cultural community centers, restaurants, grocery stores, and medical clinics nestled near new homes.

“It really is about a livable, walkable, Complete Streets kind of community,” Ige said. “The community said it loud and clear. They want job opportunities, affordable housing.”

The state wants to start building along the Dillingham, Iwilei corridor, which is a section of state-owned land, but the vision won’t come to life for another five to 10 years.

One thing standing in the way? OCCC.

“There are still many steps that have to occur. The state is in the process of doing the environmental impact statement for the OCCC site,” Ige said.

Whether OCCC is fully relocated or remains a part of the Kalihi neighborhood, the parcel will need to be redesigned to adapt to a mixed-use community, without averting the needs of existing residents. Integrative strategies can be drawn from recent adaptations of jails and prisons in other cities. Recommendations from the 2014 Kalihi Neighborhood TOD Plan can help inform redevelopment strategies that uphold Kalihi’s culture, while also providing needed improvements to the rest of the neighborhood.— 21st Century Kalihi Vision Concept

The Department of Public Safety is still in the process of narrowing down a new location for the jail, which could open by mid-2024. Four sites are being considered.

There’s also another challenge: coordinating land development alongside the proposed rail line down Dillingham Boulevard.

“The Kalihi, Dillingham, Iwilei corridor, that’s one of the most complex corridors. Not only do we have state land with uses on it already but allow for opportunities for some new activity to happen, and we do have private land owners as well,” said Leo Asuncion, director of the state’s Office of Planning. “When is it right for redevelopment?”View the full report online here.

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