State looks for developer to transform Mayor Wright Homes

One of Hawaii’s oldest and largest low-income public housing properties will undergo some drastic changes.

The state has ambitious plans for Kalihi’s Mayor Wright Homes, with the goal of redeveloping and transforming it into mixed-income residences.

it’s part of a plan to revitalize the whole area around Mayor Wright Homes, especially since the rail is going to go through that area.

Mayor Wright Homes sits off North King Street, between Pua Lane and Liliha Street.

It was built in 1953, modernized in 1984, and will be transformed over the next several years.

“This ghetto idea is going to disappear. This is an exciting urban experience that people are going to want to participate in, we’re certain,” Gov. Neil Abercrombie said.

“To me it’s good.  But where everybody going and if they going come back to the same place or not,” said Calvin Rivera, who’s lived at Mayor Wright Homes for the past 25 years.

The state says everyone who lives there now will be relocated while the renovations are being made.

“They will be relocated at our own expenses and will have the right to return to a brand new renovated unit,” Hawaii Public Housing Authority Executive Director Hakim Ouansafi said.

On Friday, the state put out a request for a private master developer to lead the project.  The plan is to replace all of the existing public housing units at Mayor Wright Homes.

“We would be delighted to increase the number of units that are going to be available.  And at the same time provide for a creation of a community that’s going to be walkable, livable and an exciting place for people to be,” Abercrombie said.

Requirements needed to be met in the selection of a master developer are:

  • One-for-one replacement of existing public housing units
  • High-quality designs and construction that incorporate energy conservation and green practices in a LEED-certifiable project
  • The ability to finance the project with private funding, incorporation of the surrounding neighborhood
  • Supporting the development of human capital with job opportunities for low-income public housing residents

“Developers like those kinds of deals because they can get a pretty good return on their initial investment, and it’s a long-term structured deal,” Real Estate Analyst Stephany Sofos said.

And the goal is to turn the current low-income public housing into mixed-income residences.

KHON2 asked: “Do you think people of varying incomes will end up moving in?”
Sofos replied: “Absolutely, absolutely, because the location is a very prime area now, and with rail coming in it’s going to become even more prime.”

Rivera says he’d like to move back once the project is finished.

KHON2 asked: “How many bedrooms and baths do you have, and how much do you pay a month?”
Rivera replied: “I got one bedroom, me and my wife, and right now I pay $348 a month.”

“The rent will not change.  Rent are calculated based on the income so that will not change,” Ouansafi said.

So, people who make more will have to pay more.

“The bottom line in this is Mayor Wright housing is about to be reborn, and the entire area itself is going to have a revitalization and a very very exciting period of urban life is about to unfold in Honolulu,” Abercrombie said.

The state plans to pick a master developer by October, and estimates the renovations will take about three years to finish.

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