As Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie departed office Monday, he left a legacy that includes legalizing same-sex marriage, conserving 665 acres at Turtle Bay Resort and spurring the redevelopment of Kakaako.
On the last point, Abercrombie’s record far surpasses his predecessors. In just four years, his administration has approved 17 projects, nearly doubling the number of developments permitted by the state redevelopment agency since it was established in 1976. Of these, 14 are located in Kakaako, adding another 4,500 housing units to the area.
A state economic report that analyzed just 11 of the projects earlier this year estimated they would generate over $5 billion in sales and household income and support 3,600 jobs per year over 5 years.
Buildings with backdrop of construction cranes near Kakaako and the Ala Moana shopping center.
The area once known for its warehouses is now better known as the Williamsburg of Honolulu. Its bars and art galleries are a popular destination for young urbanites, and local residents have literally been lining up overnight to sign up to rent or buy new condos.
But the area’s growth has been accompanied by loud critics who want Oahu to stop urbanizing and describe the development boom as creating a “concrete jungle.”
Kakaako residents have protested the boom’s impact on infrastructure, as well as the abundance of multi-million-dollar condos. Although about half of the housing units approved in Kakaako under Abercrombie are set aside for targeted income groups and more projects are in the pipeline, only 4.5 percent of the units permitted so far are affordable to low-income Honolulu residents who have the greatest need for housing.
Public discontent spurred legislative changes for the state agency in charge of Kakaako’s growth, and neighbors even filed lawsuits seeking to block two planned developments. Gov.-elect David Ige seized on the issue to bolster his campaign, contributing to Abercrombie’s historic defeat.
Only time will tell what Kakaako will become. In the meantime, Civil Beat has partnered with the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization to create a map that shows where new projects are being built and shares information about each development.
It’s still a work-in-progress. We plan to continue updating it with projects as they arise, as well as eventually incorporate 3-D functionality.