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Interagency Transit Oriented Development Council: Mayor Wright Housing is the Top Priority

Wayne Yoshioka

A plan to build affordable housing near major transportation hubs on all islands is being developed by the state.  HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.

The Hawai’i Interagency Council for Transit Oriented Development is putting together a strategic plan to build affordable housing on state owned land.  The plan will focus on areas near transportation hubs on all islands.  But the highest priority is currently on O’ahu with the proposed redevelopment of Mayor Wright Housing near the future Iwilei – Kapalama rail transit station.  Craig Hirai chairs the Interagency TOD Council.

“Mayor Wright.  I think that is the front burner item on the Kapalama-Iwilei right now.  There may be some impacts with the City on water and sewer and storm drain infrastructure for that area.”

The Hawai’i Public Housing Authority is working with a private contractor to redevelop Mayor Wright Housing from a 350 unit facility into a mixed-use high-rise complex with 25-hundred affordable rentals.  The redevelopment will be done in 5 phases over a ten-year period.   Honolulu City and County TOD administrator, Harrison Rue, says the city is working on a number of plans for the area.

“There’s a infrastructure master plan as well as a related study for finance district to look at how to fund it.  Our TOD plan showed potential for around 10-thousand housing units in that area, just on the relatively easy to develop land.”

The sewer and water upgrades could cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  That, according to Senate Housing Committee Chair, Will Espero.  He says all eyes are on the Iwilei-Kapalama project.

“People don’t understand how important Mayor Wright Housing is.  It’s the first TOD P-3 – public private partnership – with the master development agreement with Hunt Development.  Plain and simple:  the infrastructure is key to any development.”

But, Kaua’i County Engineer, Lyle Tabata, says wastewater is a major concern for all county districts.

“We need one bona fide Department of Health person here to help us because you cannot force the developers to do the wastewater .  And you going get all these small packets of plans all over the place and that going make it unaffordable for the developers.  And that going make the affordable housing, not affordable.”

Another concern is public schools.  Kenneth Masden is the public works manager for the State Department of Education.

“What’s happening is when you go down through Kalihi to Ala Moana  you have several developments going on and everyone seems to be  -- I guess – writing checks on what the enrollment will be.  And so what we’re doing currently, we’re in the process of doing a demographic study across O’ahu but principally along the rail.”

Interagency TOD Council Chair Hirai says basic infrastructure will drive future development.

“Right now we’re trying to maximize the use of the water and sewer we already have and if we find state lands with water and sewer capacity that ‘s what we’ll try to do as soon as we can.  Long term, we’ve gotta create more of that kind of infrastructure.”

Hirai says the TOD Council plans to develop and finalize the strategic plan by the end of the year.   Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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