Planning in Paradise II: Urban Redevelopment Honolulu, Hawaii

The city of Honolulu, which encompasses the island of Oahu, is both the county seat and the capital city of Hawaii. Seventy-two percent of the state\’s population resides within the jurisdiction of the city and county of Honolulu, ranking Honolulu as the 11th largest American municipality. First-time island visitors who are expecting surf, sun, and fun are frequently unprepared for the intensity of Honolulu\’s urban environment.Since the late 1920s when Hawaii enacted the first state comprehensive land-use plan in the nation, development patterns in Hawaii have followed the traditional subdivision patterns of the continental United States – essentially, a higher-density mixed-use urban business core and peripheral outward growth of suburban residential development along a linear transportation corridor. Single-family homes now stand on some of the most fertile agricultural lands in the islands. Where once there were fields of sugarcane and pineapple there are now housing developments. Much of the available lands considered to be greenfields by housing developers have already been converted to subdivision-type communities, or are designated for conservation or agriculture. For those who live on the outskirts of the urban core, as in much of mainland America, gridlock occurs during both morning and afternoon rush hours. Why then, as the 11th largest municipality, with traffic cited as one of the attributes that degrades the quality of island life, does the city avail itself of no other means of personal transportation beyond the automobile and a public bus system? Most residents would argue that the debate has raged on since statehood (1959). Honolulu holds the dubious distinction of being the only major city to reject federally funded transit projects – not once or twice, but three times.Burgeoning growth is now pressuring both state and county officials to finally deal with this issue. At present, an interim city transportation project is under construction for a new BRT system in Waikiki. This is only a stopgap measure. Other large-scale solutions are now hotly debated in both planning and political circles.Although much of the focus for the past 45 years has been on the transit line itself, few have envisioned how the nodes and corridors themselves will impact and be integrated into the existing community fabric. The main focus of this studio will be on this latter issue.The studio semester will be divided into roughly three parts. The first part will be an investigation into, understanding of, and critique of the various transit options considered in the past for Hawaii. The first part of the studio semester will also involve a study of other successful transit models throughout the world. Data collected from a 2002 urban design studio focused on a postindustrial site within the urban core of Honolulu will be available for student use. The second part of this studio will focus on the investigation of urban design and planning strategies around the proposed transit corridor itself. This second phase, along with conceptual thoughts for the third phase, will begin in Hawaii with a half-day student/private sector/public sector design charette sponsored by ULI Hawaii Chapter.The third and final part of this studio will focus on a series of selected sites, from which students may choose to develop an integrated urban design/architectural/landscape architectural response to the intrusion of a new stimulus into a predefined community, be it suburban or urban. The solutions will be multi-use in nature and will address residential, retail, commercial, light-industrial, and recreational uses around the selected intrusion points. The presumption is that these design explorations will impact directly the planning policies and guidelines of these transit nodes as Honolulu moves toward a new and exciting decade of planning for a public mass-transit system.The r