State unveils plans for first vertical public school in Kakaako


The Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) and Alakaʻi Development unveiled Friday the design for the state’s first vertical school, which will be located in Kakaako.

School officials say a school is needed in the area, since there are a lot of condominiums and apartment buildings coming up.

“We’ve discussed the possibilities of how to best serve the future educational needs of this growing area and are excited to reveal the design for this 21st century public elementary school,” said superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “The school will have a number of sustainable features, which will provide an innovative and healthy learning atmosphere for the K-6 students in this area.”

The DOE partnered with Alakaʻi Development, so the school will be part of a mixed-income, mixed-use development that also features rental residences and retail space.

“Hopefully, we can take savings and opportunities from the verticality of the school and put that into the classrooms, put that into the experience of the children,” said Jon Wallenstrom of Alakaʻi Development.

The site at 690 Pohukaina Street will face Mother Waldron Park and is being designed by WRNS Studio in collaboration with Ben Woo Architects.

Construction is expected to begin in 2019, with the school and one of two residential towers being built in the first phase.

When complete, the school is expected to serve up to 750 elementary students.

The DOE and the developer are optimistic about the new project. But what do residents think?

“You have mixed income. Usually, white-collar workers like to send their children to private schools, unless it’s an upper-echelon type of school,” said William Ammons, Ala Moana-Kakaako Neighborhood Board. “You have to wonder how this is going to work out.”

“What we’re seeing is, now there’s a lot of affordable units in the condos. You’ve got a lot of families in a vertical space and more students,” Matayoshi said.

The estimated cost of the school is $40 million. The legislature appropriated $16 million for planning, design work, and initial construction costs.

Matayoshi says the DOE will still have to ask the legislature for funding to finish the project.

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