The Ala Moana neighborhood is poised to get a third 400-foot tower after a unanimous vote by the Honolulu City Council on Wednesday granted the developer of ProsPac Tower waivers of height, density and other zoning requirements.

The exemptions, part of a special transit-oriented development permit offered to “creative, catalytic” projects within the future rail corridor, allow the developer to exceed the neighborhood’s height limit by about 150 feet and to build at a density level nearly four times the usual limit.

The council has granted this type of permit to just three other projects: a 26-story condominium tower along Sheridan Street called Hawaii City Plaza and two 400-foot towers, Manaolana condo-hotel across from the Hawaii Convention Center and 1500 Kapiolani hotel on Kapiolani Boulevard across from Ala Moana Center.

ProsPac Tower is slated for construction at the corner of Keeaumoku Street and Makaloa Street near Ala Moana Center.

City and County of Honolulu

The permits are granted in exchange for community benefits, which are loosely defined to include affordable housing, public open space or streetscape improvements.

ProsPac Tower, located directly behind 1500 Kapiolani, will be a 41-story tower with 347 market-rate condominium units and 78 “affordable” rentals.

Concern over initial plans for a separate entrance for lower-income residents, referred to by critics as a “poor door,” caused the project to stall at the council until the developer changed the proposal so that both entrances are accessible to all residents.

The rental units must remain affordable for at least 30 years to people at or below 80 percent of area median income, or an individual making $58,600 or less annually in Honolulu. At that rate, a studio would rent at $1,333 per month.

The affordable units include six one-bedroom units and 72 “micro studio units” of 300 to 400 square feet.

Two members of the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters offered the only testimony on the measure Wednesday.

“ProsPac Tower will help revitalize the Keeaumoku corridor,” said Dione Kalaola of the council. We commend the developer for going even further than others have gone regarding the number of affordable units. Other who have sought IPD-T (Interim Planned Development-Transit) permits have delivered much less.”

In December, amid brouhaha over the “poor door,” Councilwoman Kymberly Pine proposed an amendment requiring the developer to also sell 19 units affordable to people at or below 120 percent area of median income.

Pine, chair of the council’s Zoning and Housing Committee, changed her requirement in the final version of the measure that passed Wednesday. It instead requires the developer to sell those 19 units at affordable rates only if it seeks government tax credits to construct the 78 affordable rentals.

A fifth project seeking a special permit, Hawaii Ocean Plazaawaits approval by the City Council. Proposed by the same developer as Hawaii City Plaza, Hawaii Ocean Plaza would have 175 hotel units and 216 residential units located between Makaloa Street and Kapiolani Boulevard.

Real estate development company Avalon Group pitched its plan to build two towers near Ala Moana to the council in December.

The project, Sky Ala Moana, would cover 70,000 square feet at 1400 Kapiolani Blvd., near Makaloa Street directly across the street from the planned Ala Moana rail station.  

One tower would include 400 condominium units and the other would include 420 units, most of them condominium-hotel.

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