There are 88 blocks in the district of Kaka‘ako. Of those, less than 40 are currently occupied by people, meaning there is tremendous room for growth.
Planners anticipate the area can accommodate another 30,000 to 40,000 more people in the future.
“We’re building affordable housing, workforce housing, middle-income housing, and all the way through higher-end housing. Our hope is that we’ll have many opportunities for people to move up into different types of housing,” said Livingston “Jack” Wong, CEO of Kamehameha Schools.
“I want to make sure the housing is built for all market levels. We’re making a huge push on affordable housing. I want to see more affordable housing being built in Kaka‘ako, rental in particular,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
“I see Kaka‘ako as not just as a bunch of condos. I see it as a neighborhood, a community, and a place where it has distinct, very distinct, voices and which we should hear the existing residents, but you also hear about the art community that says this is a cool place,” said Anthony Ching, executive director of the Hawai‘i Community Development Authority.
Hawai‘i’s thriving art community sees the neighborhood as a key opportunity.
“One thing that’s exciting is incorporating art and local artists within this community. Hopefully, as you look through it, you’ll not only see the context of the old buildings, but also our current day artists really having a chance to participate in a community that’s both urban as well as about artists too,” said Wong.
“We wanted it to be like another art district, creative district where we can all get together,” said Jasper Wong, founder and lead director of POW! WOW! Hawaii.
But some wonder if they and other community groups will be pushed out by big development.
“As much as we build up, we need community space and programs that will enable the potential in the community as well,” said John Leong, CEO of Kupu, a non-profit dedicated to training the next generation in green job skill sets.
Can community space exist in the midst of growth? Landowners say yes.
“The open space is a tremendous value and well-needed, but can we find a very great balance of finding future design of buildings that compliment landscape, history, language arts, building motifs that replicate or embody traditional Hawaiian culture,” said Kamana‘opono Crabbe, Office of Hawaiian Affairs CEO.
“The people who are already here are going to be making some choices of their destiny as well,” said Bishop Museum historian DeSoto Brown.
“I think it’s not too late because there are still properties that are available out there, but my hope is the HCDA would look at those properties that are still available and ask the question, ‘What can we do save some of these properties for the people of Hawaii?'” said former Gov. George Ariyoshi.
“We as a state, city and society will be judged by what happens in Kaka‘ako. We really can’t afford to fail,” said Jay Fidell, CEO of ThinkTech Hawai‘i.
It comes down to a balancing act — fitting in all the elements to create the greatest good for the greatest number. It also means the community needs to accept change and help define its new identity moving forward.