State lawmaker wants to turn Kalihi into the “local people’s playground”

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A better Kalihi; Governor David Ige briefly mentions this in Tuesday’s state of the state address.  

Ige wants to revitalize the neighborhood, and the first step would be to move the jail.

“For several generations now, the community of Kalihi has, with little protest, hosted OCCC in its own back yard,” he said in his speech at the state Capitol. “While it is not the primary reason to relocate Oahu’s outdated jail, the chance to revitalize the community of Kalihi by using that vacated space to create new economic and social opportunities is another good reason to relocate OCCC.”

Senator Glenn Wakai envisions Kalihi to become what he calls the “local people’s playground.”

“This is our one moment to really change the face of Kalihi. And I hope we do something spectacular, that’s better than what we have,” said Wakai.

Kalihi is not known as a hip, modern neighborhood. But Wakai says there’s potential.

“Why don’t we think about a theater there? An amusement park. A baseball stadium,” he mused.  

The possible new additions to this part of Oahu’s urban core would be on 16 acres of land, where Oahu Correctional Community Center currently stands.

The state has mulled over options to move OCCC, likely to Halawa. Wakai says that can cost over 500 million dollars – but something he believes Kalihi needs.

“I know those on the other side say, ‘Oh, why don’t we think about putting affordable housing there?’ That’s an incrementally better proposition than what we have there now. But that’s not ‘wow.’ In Hawaii, we need a wow (factor),” said Wakai.

His ideas will cost a lot of money, and Wakai knows that.

“But in this day and age, public private partnership, that should be the solution to putting something wow there. On another point. Look at Hawaii. We don’t have any marvelous architectural structures. Maybe Iolani Palace. But we have no Eiffel Tower, we have no Sydney Opera House, we have no Great Wall of China. This is our chance to create something architecturally magnificent in this state.”

Wakai’s ideas are grand – something he acknowledges may turn off fellow lawmakers.

“There’s a good chance of that. But in Hawaii we do slow, methodical, incremental improvements. We need to think big in the state.”

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