This article is authored by Janis Magin and originally appeared in Pacific Business News.
A 400-unit mixed-use condominium project planned for a site across from the Walmart store on Keeaumoku Street has filed an application to build the project under the City and County of Honolulu’s transit-oriented-development zoning regulations.
ProsPac Holdings Inc. is the fifth developer to submit an application for an interim planned development-transit permit in the area around Ala Moana Center, one of eight transit-oriented development zones established along the Honolulu rail project’s 20-mile route, each covering two or three of the 21 stations.
ProsPac Holdings plans to use TOD zoning for its mixed-use project on Keeaumoku Street.
One of the goals of TOD is to make communities more pedestrian friendly while adding more housing and encouraging the use of public transportation.
While three of the eight plans — Waipahu, Aiea-Pearl City and Kalihi — have been adopted by the Honolulu City Council, the Ala Moana area has seen the most activity and the only applications for zoning, even though the council is still considering the plan.
Since the plan has not been adopted, developers such as ProsPac Holdings are using the interim planned development-transit permit as a vehicle to propose transit-oriented development, or TOD, plans for lots of 20,000 square feet or more, said Harrison Rue, community building and transit-oriented development administrator with the City and County of Honolulu’s Department of Planning and Permitting.
“That allows them to negotiate with council for flexible zoning very similar to what’s in the draft zoning that hasn’t been adopted yet,” Rue told Pacific Business News.
What TOD gives those developers is additional height, up to 400 feet, and additional density under TOD zoning, he said.
The four other projects that have submitted applications are all mixed-use towers — Salem Partners’ Manaolana Place and 1500 Kapiolani hotel-condominium projects, Hawaii City Plaza on Sheridan Street and the Hawaii Ocean Plaza hotel-condo, planned for three parcels next to the Kenrock Building on Kapiolani Boulevard.
While most see TOD as an outgrowth of the rail transit project, Rue notes that the plans have been in the works for some 10 years. TOD is a long-term effort that requires community involvement and multiple public meetings over several years.
Planning began in Waipahu in 2007, but the area has yet to see any applications from developers, who are waiting to see what the City Council does on two affordable bills, Rue said.
Gail Jennings, the project lead for the transit-oriented development group at Colliers International Hawaii, said Waipahu is ideal for TOD because there is a lot of activity on the streets — and creating an active streetscape with retail, office, medical or wellness uses at the street level is at the heart of TOD zoning.
“There’s a reason that Kapiolani is attractive and the Ala Moana area is attractive. The scale of the development you can do will pencil out,” Jennings said. “In a place like Waipahu, it isn’t appropriate to have 200-foot buildings there.”
Jennings noted that the Waipahu Depot area is “an ideal walkable neighborhood” that has redevelopment potential. The TOD plan will add mixed-use zoning to areas that are currently zoned for industrial or apartments, which can add housing and retail to the mix.
Rue said there has been a “surprising amount of interest but no real deals from some smaller developers.”
“It takes time to get all the parties together and working cooperatively to create a cohesive neighborhood,” Jennings said. “You need a holistic approach.”
In the Aiea-Pearl City zone, multi-family investors have been buying property near the area where the Pearlridge station will be built, Jennings said.
“Our biggest hope is that the city’s commitment to doing public-private partnerships is carried through to the station there,” she said. A developer on a long-term ground lease could add retail, office or affordable housing near or on top of the station “and it could generate good revenue for the city.”
Closer to downtown, the Iwilei-Kapalama plan, which includes the redevelopment of the Mayor Wright Homes public housing project, envisions adding 3,670 units of housing in the first 10 years, with another 4,050 units in the five years after that.