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New Kapi'olani high-rise planned

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New Kapi'olani high-rise planned

The developer of the twin-tower Moana Pacific condominium on Kapi'olani Boulevard is proposing to build another residential high-rise about a block away, adding to the condo building rush that's helping feed Hawai'i's hot housing market.

KC Rainbow Development seeks to build the high-rise at the vacant Kapi'olani site that once was home to the Flamingo Chuckwagon restaurant and more recently envisioned for a $25 million home furnishing and design center.

The plan is part of a proposed three-way agreement with the Chuckwagon site owner and the state in which the home furnishing and design center would relocate to Moana Pacific's high-rise while the state gets parking for the public and small businesses that are losing valuable street parking at the diamondhead end of Queen Street.

The proposal is scheduled to be reviewed today by the board of the Hawai'i Community Development Authority, the state agency guiding redevelopment in Kaka'ako.

The development agency's staff is recommending the board approve the plan.

Daniel Dinell, agency executive director, called the proposal a "win-win" solution that helps fulfill a previous request from board members to include more pedestrian-friendly businesses in ground-level commercial space at Moana Pacific.

The agency board previously encouraged Moana Pacific developer KC Rainbow to include commercial tenants more attractive to passers-by, but agency development rules prohibited retail uses. Only light-industrial use was permitted and could have resulted in tenants such as food catering and copy shops.

KC Rainbow previously said its twin-tower condo, which is under construction, might include an 80,000-square-foot light-industrial component as an optional future phase, though it was uncertain whether appropriate tenants could be found that fit well with the condo.

In May the agency changed its rules to allow Kaka'ako property owners to transfer allowed uses between unconnected sites.

To take advantage of the rule change, KC Rainbow proposes to purchase the Chuckwagon site from the owner of INspiration Furniture, Thomas Sorensen, who planned to develop the design center anchored by an INspiration store.

KC Rainbow would be allowed to transfer the retail use of the Chuckwagon site to its Moana Pacific project. It would provide public parking, a qualified industrial use, on the Chuckwagon site.

Under terms of the agreement, Sorensen would develop the commercial component of the Moana Pacific project. He could not be reached for comment to say whether the plan for the design center would significantly change.

As initially envisioned, the design center was to feature a flagship INspiration store along with other retailers selling home and office products. Project backers tried to interest Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma, but no tenant announcements were made.

Foundation construction began in 2002, but was halted, and the project previously expected to be finished in 2003 was suspended.

Allen Leong, operations director for KC Rainbow, said a design center addition to Moana Pacific would create more interaction between the public and the project. "It'll make our block more attractive," he said.

Leong said details are still being worked out for the proposed residential tower. "We're still closely watching the market to see where the buyers still are," he said, indicating that pricing units under $500,000 is attractive but will depend on construction costs.

"Obviously, it's a good location, but we really don't know how it's going to shape up yet," Leong said.

KC Rainbow proposes to turn a portion of the Sorensen property into a 100-stall parking lot by Sept. 1, and lease 80 stalls to the state so it can provide public parking in part to replace stalls being lost by improving the diamondhead end of Queen Street.

If KC Rainbow develops the residential condo as envisioned, the state would have an option to purchase or lease 100 stalls in the project's parking structure for long-term use.

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I applaud KC Rainbow Development and Thomas Sorensen, owner of INspiration Furniture, for striking a deal that will create a more vibrant development. More conversations like this will benefit all parties involved in making Honolulu a city of great design. However, we still have a long way to go.

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