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Zoning change sought for 'A'ala condos

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Zoning change sought for 'A'ala condos

A Mainland developer wants to build a 22-story condominium tower on North Beretania Street across from 'A'ala Park, but needs a zoning change to move forward with what would be the third new residential development in the area.

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Developer 3D Investments LLC is asking the city to rezone two adjacent properties at 230 and 254 N. Beretania St. from B-2 community business district to BMX-3 community mixed use district. Consultant Keith Kurahashi, who will give a presentation on the project tonight at the Kalihi-Palama Neighborhood Board, said the change would allow for a mixed commercial and condo project.

"The zone change is needed so they can put in a mixed use development," Kurahashi said. "Right now they would be allowed to build an office building or something like that and they want that residential component."

The property stretches from College Walk to 'A'ala Street along Beretania Street. A two-story commercial building called the Town Square is now on the property and would be torn down. The square is home to several small businesses, including the offices of the Hawai'i Lupus Foundation and the Honolulu Weekly newspaper. The former Kobayashi Hotel, now closed, is in a separate four-story building on the property. It would also come down.

The condo project would have businesses on the ground floor with 204 one- two- and three-bedroom fee-simple units on 21 floors, Kurahashi said.

The developer is required to go before the neighborhood board with the project before a zoning change application is filed, he said. The project also needs approvals from the city Planning Commission and the City Council.

Kurahashi said there is no timeline for construction or estimated cost yet.

Chad Hiyakumoto, who owns 'A'ala Park Boardshop on nearby College Walk, would be forced out of his moderately priced retail space. Being close to the park and his skateboarding customers is critical to his business.

"I'd like to still be able to have a shop somewhere near there," Hiyakumoto said. "It would kind of suck if I just got kicked out and didn't have any place of business anymore."

Another residential condo project is being built by a group called Downtown Affordables on North King Street on the makai side of 'A'ala Park.

Vito Galati, a partner in Downtown Affordables, said the 23-story, 251-unit affordable condominium project called 215 N. King St. is sold out. He said the building will be topped off next month and tenants will move in by December.

Galati said the location near downtown and the tight real-estate market makes building residential condos a perfect fit for the 'A'ala area.

"I think people are interested in being in town and having all of the amenities that town has and avoiding the long commutes and time in your car," Galati said. "For people who work in town, to be able to have a five-minute walk to work and back home is saving hours every day."

The third project is a $35 million, 13-story affordable housing residence for seniors near the historic O'ahu Railway & Land Terminal building financed through the state Housing and Community Development Corp. and being developed by Pacific Housing Assistance Corp.

For years 'A'ala was a dangerous, rundown area until the city completed a $2.3 million park renovation project in 2003. There are still homeless people that live in the park and drug dealers lurking in the area, but with new basketball courts, a skateboard rink, playground equipment and a general cleanup, the park is much more family friendly.

Galati said with hundreds of new units being built near the park and families moving in, the area will only get better.

"With three projects and a couple thousand new residents that have pride of ownership and are committed to their community, it has to have a big impact," he said. "'A'ala has been a transition area for a long time, and I think we are going to see it stabilize into a nice residential community."

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