Kaka‘ako encompasses more than 600 acres of land that Native Hawaiians once called home. It was rich in resources with fishpond farming and salt ponds, considered gold in ancient times.
“Salt for Hawaiians was not just a condiment that you put on your food to make it taste better. It was a method of preservation,” said DeSoto Brown, a historian at Bishop Museum.
Kaka‘ako evolved in the 1800s with a boom in residential construction and industrial development. The face of the community was changing, and with growth came the need for schools, churches and parks.
“It had three theaters: the Kewalo, the Aloha and the Bell Theater. It had schools, poi factories, bakeries, breweries, ukulele factories and many other stores,” said author and historian Bob Sigall.
In the 1950s, zoning for the area changed from residential to commercial. Urban Kaka‘ako was starting to take shape.
The evolution of Kaka‘ako has seen its share of controversy, public protests and political maneuvering.
Today, it is home to shopping centers, award-winning restaurants, residential developments and the campus of the John A. Burns School of Medicine. It is also the possible home of the proposed transit-oriented development and condominium towers that will reach hundreds of feet into the sky.
“You better really keep your eyes on the prize because what’s going down is really not for Hawai‘i’s people,” said Kaka‘ako resident Sharon Moriwaki.
So what does tomorrow hold and will residents continue to have a voice in the process? While there is much excitement about what’s ahead, there are also many unanswered questions.
“I resent very much the fact that we have forgotten the local people and that the housing has all principally become for those who are very wealthy or those who live away from Hawai‘i,” said former Gov. George Ariyoshi.
Stay with us as we take a closer look at Kaka‘ako’s past, present and future. We’ll hear from families and local businesses who’ve witnessed and lived through the changes.
“(My dad would) take us to the corner saimin shop and eat saimin. Lot of good memories around here. Lot of mom and pop stores,” said Chris Kamaka, production manager of Kamaka Ukulele.
We’ll also look at the plans community leaders, landowners and developers visualize for the future.
“The infrastructure is here. The jobs are here. The people are here. It makes sense and it alleviates pressure on our open spaces, on our farm lands, and it eliminates traffic issues,” said David Striph, senior vice president of The Howard Hughes Corp., the largest private landowner in Kaka‘ako.
“One of the greatest challenges for us is how do we balance culture and commerce,” said Kamana‘opono M. Crabbe, CEO of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
Click through for more of “Kakaʻako: From Salt Ponds to City Life.”