Kalihi leaders want to reinvent their community.
But their plans for a new Kalihi won’t become reality until lawmakers figure out what to do with the Oahu Community Correctional Center, a 100-year-old state prison that lawmakers and Gov. David Ige want to relocate.
Developers, city planners and lawmakers see a chance to re-envision the industrial district, home to a large working class community.
On Tuesday night, community members gathered at Farrington High School to discuss a new initiative called Kalihi 21st Century.
“Nothing happens unless OCCC moves to Halawa,” state Rep. John Mizuno, a longtime Kalihi House member, said at the meeting. “If it does, everything opens up for redevelopment.”
The kick-off meeting drew about 60 people. Many of them were part of Ige’s Vision Committee for Kalihi – a group of about 40 elected officials, community leaders and stakeholders who were brought together in August to discuss redevelopment options.
The jail sits on 16 acres of state-owned land in the middle of lower Kalihi, less than a half mile from the proposed Kalihi rail station.
“Nothing happens unless OCCC moves to Halawa. If it does, everything opens up for redevelopment.” — State Rep. John Mizuno
State Rep. Romy Cachola insisted at the meeting that the jail blocks the possibility of development in lower Kalihi. “No developer in their right mind would put money there,” he said.
If built, rail will stop four times in Kalihi before entering downtown Honolulu.
Architecture and planning firm PBR Hawaii & Associates co-hosted the event. Ramsay Taum, a cultural sustainability planner at PBR Hawaii, explained that Vision Committee members will use the input from the meeting to develop a “vision concept” for Kalihi.
Plans could include repaved roads, additional commercial spaces, affordable housing complexes and open spaces.
The committee will present a final redevelopment concept in the summer of 2017.
“We don’t want people to think it’s a plan as if it’s going to be actionable,” Taum said. Moving OCCC is still just a “possibility,” he added.
In his 2016 State of the State address, Ige stressed the importance of redeveloping Kalihi “with the community.”
“We have an immediate opportunity to get it right in Kalihi,” Ige said at the time.
Tuesday’s meeting sought to add community input to the Vision Committee’s efforts.
While many of the 60 attendees were Vision Committee members themselves, other attendees included Kalihi neighborhood board members and members of nonprofits working there.
The room was full of Kalihi’s community leaders. “It’s not only the higher-ups here,” said Ryan Mandado, chairman of the Kalihi-Palama Neighborhood Board.
Kalihi resident April Bautista, who works with young immigrants at the nonprofit Aloha DREAM Team, said she appreciated the city’s effort to create a space for public input but that Kalihi’s largely working class population might not have time to attend or even know about the meeting.
“Think about the people who live and work in Kalihi. Some have kids they have to take care of,” Bautista said. “They have to go catch their second job.”
At five different Vision Stations, meeting attendees were invited to draw or write their vision for Kalihi.
“If the property became available, how would you reintegrate that?” Taum asked attendees. “What would that do to the community around it? What opportunities would be available?”
Topics include open spaces, improvements to sidewalks and transit, and existing community assets.
“Finding places for people in Kalihi is very important,” Mandado said. “Coming together to study at a coffee shop is a place of education, going somewhere to eat is another place.”
The next 21st Century Kalihi community meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Nov. 15 in the cafeteria of Farrington High School.