The Hawaii Community Development Authority decided Tuesday to hold off on entering a 35-year lease with Howard Hughes Corp. for the management of the Kewalo Basin Harbor in Kakaako.
After the board met in executive session for about an hour longer than planned, board member Brian Tamamoto moved to defer the lease.
He said after the hearing that more work needed to be done to clarify definitions and amend provisions regarding rents and insurance. The lease would be for 35 years with the option to extend by 10 years. It could increase the number of boat slips from 144 to 244 and include $20 million worth of harbor improvements.
Kewalo Basin Harbor in Kakaako.
The deferral was a relief to some residents who are wary of HCDA’s closed-door negotiations with the corporation regarding the historic harbor, home to dozens of commercial fishing and ocean sports businesses.
The lease won’t be made public until after it’s signed, and Wayne Takamine, who has led the Kakaako Makai Community Planning Advisory Council for the past nine years, said that the lack of transparency is worrisome given HCDA’s record.
He said he and other community members sought to amend aspects of a 2010 lease for the restaurant 53 By the Sea after the agreement was signed and became public, to no avail.
He also noted that HCDA skipped required historic reviews for a controversial new tower known as 801 South St. Tower B. A court recently forced HCDA to pause construction to complete the required analyses.
“If this is done with hearings already processed, what are they doing with an undisclosed lease with a private entity?” Takamine said.
HCDA officials and Howard Hughes Corp. representatives said plans for the harbor have been long in the works and the community has been engaged in the process.
Lindsey Doi, spokeswoman for HCDA, said the agency has had meetings with stakeholders once a month over the past six months to discuss plans.
Howard Hughes Corp.’s vision for the harbor includes promoting public access and sustainability, as well as the historical significance of the area, the corporation has indicated.
“We’ve spent a lot of time and energy on this and we’re really excited to take part in the revitalization of Kewalo Harbor,” said David Striph, senior vice president of Howard Hughes, after the hearing.
Takamine said he hopes to work with the corporation to ensure the community’s input is considered.
“If there’s stuff that has to be done in the public’s interest, it has to be now,” Takamine said. “So the public has to know what’s going on or else they’re going to sign the lease, be permitted to do what’s in the lease, and we have no recourse.”
Rob Harrington, who has run Reel Intense Sports Fishing, said he’s been impressed with how Howard Hughes Corp. has reached out to small business owners, but that he wants more transparency from HCDA.
He’s not expecting to see a copy of the lease before it’s signed, but wishes there were more details available to reassure him.
“It’s people’s livelihood on the line,” he said.
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