Planning in Paradise: Urban Redevelopment – Honolulu, Hawaii

Prerequisites:A high degree of design interest and some degree of computer literacy is expected, as this studio will focus on urban planning and design issues at various city scales as well as the challenges of collaborating effectively across great distances using the Internet as a communication medium. Required participation – a funded field trip (airfare, accommodations, some group ground transportation) tentatively October 12-18 – exact travel dates to be announced. Course Description:Situated on the southeastern shore of the Island of Oahu, within the Urban Core of Honolulu, is Kakaako, a 670-acre postindustrial district. To the east of Kakaako is the world-renowned Waikiki Beach, and to the west is Honolulu\’s financial and business district. At Kakaako\’s southern boundary, where the land meets the sea, it is now a scenic recreation spot for tourists and residents alike; as well as an ideal location for harbor activities. Hemmed in on the north by the foothills of the Koolau mountain range, and one of the major transportation arteries into the city, Kakaako\’s northern edge is a no-man\’s land of vacant lots and derelict buildings; casualties of the 1980s when private enterprises were planning high-rise mixed-use residential structures to be marketed mainly to overseas investors. Kakaako, sandwiched between two densely populated areas, is ideally situated for a multitude of uses. As such, any new development proposals for the area immediately become controversial.Between the 1950s and 70s, Kakaako was a thriving residential area that was rezoned for industrial use to take advantage of its close proximity to Honolulu Harbor. As Honolulu grew into a major metropolitan city, (today\’s population approximately 840,000) the state recognized that a major sector of the urban core was being under-utilized and its infrastructure neglected. In the 1970s, the land was rezoned as mixed-use and placed under the jurisdiction of a single state agency, the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA). HCDA, patterned after the New York Port Authority, was created specifically to shepherd the redevelopment plans for Kakaako. The agency\’s goal remains to this day to \”reclaim and transform Kakaako\’s shoreline and waterfront lands into a magnificent new public place.\” Since the 70s when Kakaako was rezoned, the quaint but vibrant cottage industries have all but disappeared. In recent years, the State has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in creating unique park settings, widening roadways, and upgrading the existing utility infrastructure. Yet little private redevelopment has occurred beyond a hand-full of high-rise residential structures. The warehouse type structures that remain in Kakaako have become appealing to automotive showrooms, and big-box retailers.The firm of Cooper Robertson and Partners, designers of the 1979 Master Plan for Battery Park in New York City, was recently hired by The Kamehameha Schools to create a master plan at one corner of Kakaako for a new medical center intended to spearhead the revitalization of Kakaako. While the future looks promising for this portion of Kakaako, outdated development guidelines and regulations based on zoning-by-density and land-use designations hamper the future development of the balance of the district. Since the late 1920s when Hawaii enacted the first comprehensive land-use plan in the nation, residential development patterns in Hawaii have followed the traditional subdivision patterns of the United States. Suburban sprawl now stands on some of the most fertile 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 is designated conservation or agriculture. Accordingly, a viable, hig