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Kekaulike Mall Improvements Announced

Noe Tanigawa
Kekaulike Mall in Chinatown

Kekaulike Mall, on the 'Ewa end of Chinatown, bustles with activity from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. Fruit and vegetable vendors line the mall outside and shoppers duck into storefronts for fish, meat, sauces, and other supplies.

Opening their presentation, City officials noted the Kekaulike Mall Improvement Project has been nearly seven years in the planning. Draft plans were presented to the Downtown Chinatown Neighborhood board last week. They include drainage improvements and palm trees to address the need for shade on the mall.

Board member Robert Armstrong responded, he saw nothing objectionable in the plan, but there was also nothing that indicated a sense of place.

Credit Department of Transportation Services
Site plan overview of Kekaulike Mall and Kekaulike Street

In lighting for example, "Why are there not lanterns? Yes they cost more, but that is a sense of place.  Simple things. Why is there no performance space anywhere?"

Armstrong says with the rail stop at Kekaulike he anticipates buskers, and spontaneous street music in the area. He called for more cultural identification in one of the nation's few remaining Chinatowns. There was very little response to the improvement plan from the audience or board members. Its most striking feature may be a large repainted crosswalk at the intersection with King street.

Hong Li, Kekaulike Project manager said the City weighed multiple concerns.

"It's a constant struggle between going this way or that way. To some people it's not fresh, it's not modern enough, but to other people it's too bold, it's too modern, so that's the balance we're trying to achieve."

Work on the $14 million Kekaulike project is expected to start this summer. Comments are still being accepted. No significant impacts are anticipated.

Click here to view the improvement plan. Contact Hong Li at to comment on the Kekaulike Mall and Kekaulike Street Multimodal Improvement Project.

Noe Tanigawa covers art, culture and ideas for Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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