Today, our perambulations took us out of our K Street neighborhood for a visually stimulating walking tour of the wilds of urban Kaka’ako; specifically, the district owned and master planned for development by huge, local land owner Kamehameha Schools.
Kakaʻako was once a thriving Native Hawaiian community with agricultural terraces where Hawaiian royalty once lived.
Hawaiians used the region for fishpond farming, salt making, wetland agriculture and human burials.
Today, the area is ground zero, the bull’s-eye, the epicenter for re-development activities in Honolulu.
Right now it is largely a collection of re-purposed Quonset huts, low-rise concrete buildings and a chunky stew of mismatched structures that put some gritty in our city.
However, within the next few years all that will change as towering new condos will viagra their way into the skyline and an unbelievably expensive elevated train will pass through here on its route between suburban sprawl on the island’s west side and a shopping center so focused on expensive brands that it makes the Kardashians blush.
At one point there were plans to construct a 700-foot residential tower. That doesn’t sound like much to mainland folks but remember our current building codes limit heights in the area to 400 feet.
The Kaka’ako re-development vision has been evolving for almost a decade. Central to the master plan is the concept of creating a new neighborhood in which residents can live, work and play with alternative transportation options – bikes, train, walking – that obviate the need for a car.
Urban Hawaii, a concept that seems oxymoronic. Giant shrimp. Resident alien. Sanitary landfill. Butt head. Microsoft Works. I’ll stop now.
The plans are controversial, and as construction goes into overdrive, public discourse has become noisy and sometimes less than civil.
What puzzles me is that so many folks want the new Kaka’ako to mirror the design elements of urban renewal projects found in the big cities on the mainland. They think the new town has to be edgy, avant-garde, a bit hipster and exuding an attitude of urban toughness.
Their vision incorporates a lot of street art, explained to me by a fellow curmudgeon as essentially high quality graffiti without pejorative connotations.
We celebrate painting old buildings and walls in the new Kaka’ako. Each February during Valentine’s Week we host “Pow! Wow! Hawaii” which brings over a hundred international and local “street artists” together to create murals and other forms of art. Banksy gone wild. Spray paint dealers sing Hallelujah.
The result is as you see in the accompanying photos. Do you like it?
Some folks rave about the addition of street art. Some folks rave about the proliferation of self-indulgent graffiti. And since this is Kaka’ako, some rave about extra-terrestrials, the grassy knoll, and the existential threat posed by Hillary’s cankles. But I digress.
As they say, chacun à son goȗt and, yes, it took me awhile to find the “u” wearing a little hat.
To me, the urban copycat approach seems wrong.
I think we should be creating a new vision, one that I call Island Urban that eschews the subway graffiti of the East Coast and the hip-hop memes of LA for a development scheme more reflective of our lifestyle on a small dot of palm tree studded, volcanic land 2,500 miles from our nearest neighbors.
They say designer vodka; I say mai tai.
They say raw and real; I say gentle and hang loose.
I guess I’d just like a little more aloha and a little less cutting edge, but that’s just me.
Max has yet to express an opinion.