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Council backs taller urban high-rises in Honolulu!

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Council backs taller urban high-rises


Source: Honolulu Star Bulletin

**Yay, its about time! The only thing missing is how high are they willing to go?

High-rise buildings could get even higher in urban Honolulu, under a resolution that the City Council unanimously approved yesterday.

Zoning Chairman Charles Djou, author of the resolution, said he hopes that in the short term, the measure will encourage the city administration to build right up to current height limits instead of recommending heights below the ceiling.

"Under existing law, go to the maximum, but over the long term, let's look at increasing those height limits in the urban core," Djou said.

While the resolution does not have the force of law, an administration official said the message from the Council is clear.

"It's an indication to us that there are things that the City Council wants us to look at," said Henry Eng, director of the city Department of Planning and Permitting. "And we'll certainly take that into consideration when we handle future applications."

Djou said that increasing height limits will increase density in the primary urban center -- the area that generally runs between Waialae-Kahala and Pearl City -- by building up instead of out.

The height limit for downtown Honolulu buildings is 350 feet, but Hawaii's tallest building, the First Hawaiian Center built in 1996, received an exemption to build to 430 feet. **(Also, there are a couple of spots in the CBD that allow heights up to 450 ft.)** :)

Djou said that Hawaii is a long way from creating the kind of super-skyscrapers that hover over cities like New York or Chicago, which is home to the tallest building in the U.S.: the Sears Tower at 1,450 feet.

"While increasing heights is controversial and not universally welcomed -- we don't want Manhattan in Honolulu -- nevertheless, given the choice of paving over more of our open space, I think going up is a better policy position," Djou said.

The increased density, he said, will help to boost housing supply to meet the island's growing population and help address Honolulu's housing crunch.

Djou said that having more residents living in town also will help ease traffic congestion from Leeward Oahu.

Building heights will also come into play as debate continues over whether the city should move forward with planning for rail transit and the housing surrounding transit stations.

"Residents of the primary urban center are very worried about increased density and the fact that a transit line will be coming through," said Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, whose Makiki-Manoa district is in the primary urban center.

Among those concerns is whether the current infrastructure can support growing density.

"Our infrastructure is such that it is already breaking down. Our water, sewers and our roads cannot handle a higher density," city employee Dan Neyer testified.

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Bravo to Councilman Charles Djou for using his head and not sway his decision to limit building heights. We need more forward thinking people in leadership positions.

I wonder what will happen in the near future. Honolulu Central Business District office vacancies are still going down, therefore, increasing rents. When these rents become hit a certain benchmark (not sure, have to research that information still) it becomes attractive for developers to consider building a new office tower.

The Macy's site (aka Liberty House) fronting Fort Street Mall and King St was sold late last year. Could this be the home of the next Honolulu Skyscraper? How tall wiil it be?

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DisgruntledArchitect808, the lot that the superblock is on is one of the few areas of the city that has a current height limit of 450 ft. I just found that out after the block was sold which something that isn't well known and if a developer decided to build a building there at the current maximum height it would automatically become the states tallest. However, if someone does decide to build there it would be great if they propose something much taller. I think that the superblock is large enough to support a tall modern skyscraper and with the office vacancies going down it would work out perfectly to build a tall office tower or perhaps mixed use.

dgreco, yeah this is actually really good news. It's not often that you hear this sort of support. I think that the city council and others are really starting to open up to new ideas and realize that land is being swallowed up rapidly in a place that has limited land.

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This is from Today's article at

Here is where Honolulu Central Business District stands on office rents.


Downtown goes up in office price

Advertiser Staff and News Services

Downtown Honolulu office space got pricier during the fourth quarter, in keeping with national trends of lower vacancies translating into higher prices.

A report by Colliers International found that rates averaged $34.20 per square foot in Downtown during 2006's last three months, or 8.6 percent higher than a year earlier. Nationally, Colliers reported that Downtown office rents rose 6.4 percent during the fourth quarter.

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^I wonder how long it will be before developers begin to consider building new office towers? The only possibly building mixed with offices that I can think of is the "Hawaii World Trade Center" but I don't know whats going on with it? Supposedly there was to be some sort of decision and details about it this year but who knows 'cause the idea had kind of died when it was originally concieved then it was brought back up last year.

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Here's an opinion piece that was in the Star Bulletin today that I thought was cool because they also agree that height limits should be raised. I hope that this idea will have greater acceptance among the people who make the urban area their home. As the residential population continues to edge to the million mark and the land continues to be swallowed up increasing units, raising the height, increasing density just makes a lot more sense.

Building higher in urban Honolulu is a better plan

THE post-World War II model for residential development radiated low-density suburban homes across much of Oahu. The result has been traffic congestion that continues to escalate as more and more people drive to work from districts that are almost exclusively residential, while the demand for roads, sewer and utility lines, schools and other services -- and the constant, costly burden of maintaining them -- increase the need to raise and spend more tax revenue.

At the same time, an appetite for further housing competes with the need for agricultural land and scenic spaces on which tourism relies.

So instead of building out, the City Council suggests that construction go vertical, approving a resolution that the administration encourage developers to build as high as limits allow -- or even higher when circumstances are suitable.

Though the resolution doesn't have the force of law, the Council's move recognizes that the city's building prescriptions should be re-examined and changed to better fit Honolulu's urban complexion and a growing population. With a mass transit system now in play, the time has come for revisions in building densities and a shift toward mixing uses and providing broader income-level choices for housing.

The resolution's goal is to push buildings higher to boost available housing units in hopes of curbing the need for "paving over more of our open space," said its sponsor, Councilman Charles Djou.

While height limits were established decades ago to preserve mountain and ocean view planes, the intention has been eclipsed in bits and pieces over the years. The current limit of 350 feet already has been set aside for commercial and residential structures in the downtown area and in Kakaako. Along Oahu's southern coast, hotels, condos and resorts obstruct shorelines despite the limits.

Djou correctly argues that increasing the number of people who live in the primary urban center -- from Waialae-Kahala to Pearl City -- will help lessen traffic congestion and open up housing options. However, height limits should not be the only consideration.

Regulations could be adapted to blend retail and commercial activity with residential units, much like the format D.R. Horton's Schuler Division is proposing for its Hoopili project in Ewa, where height limits also could be increased to further promote West Oahu's "second city" effort.

The combination makes for more livable neighborhoods that remove the need for people to drive from home to office and shops. There are other alterations the city could make. Instead of separate, postage-stamp-sized "open spaces" now required for high-rise buildings, developers could collectively fund neighborhood parks, putting the space to better use than for a few trees and landscaped buffers. Instead of parking garages at street level, stores or businesses could present a more approachable, people-friendly atmosphere despite a building's elevation.

Honolulu's growth into a mature city calls for regulation changes that will allow it and its residents to thrive while sustaining the island's rural areas. The city's leaders need to take on this challenge with more than a resolution.

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