Honolulu’s Kewalo Basin Harbor revamp could include fresh fish restaurant, developer says

The Kewalo Basin Harbor conceptual plan

The Kewalo Basin Harbor conceptual plan

The Howard Hughes Corp.’s redevelopment of Honolulu’s Kewalo Basin Harbor could include a restaurant that serves fresh fish caught from the commercial boats based at the harbor, an executive from the Texas-based developer told PBN.

Other ideas presented at a community meeting last week included developing an oceanfront community center on the makai, or ocean, end of the harbor, which sits directly across from the developer’s 60-acre Ward Village master-planned community.

The ideas included creating a diverse, working harbor that supports the businesses that operate within and around it, supporting an urban fishing village in the heart of Honolulu and making the harbor an ocean recreation destination.

Race Randle, senior director of development for The Howard Hughes Corp. (NYSE: HHC), told PBN that it has heard from the public and boaters, especially, that it needs a place to get fresh fish.

“Right now, Kewalo brings in fresh fish every day, yet there’s no place to get it,” he said. “Ideas we presented had village-scale commercial uses — lower height, lower density — instead of large structures.”

Last Friday, the developer held its second community meeting with Kewalo park users, fishermen, tour operators, neighborhood board members and others to receive input on its conceptual plans for Kewalo Basin Harbor.

The meeting, which hosted about 100 people, followed the first one held in November, which also included about 100 individuals.

“Once we get all the feedback and make sure it’s aligned with the community’s goals, we will finalize our plans,” Randle said. “It needs to be a major connector from [Kakaako Mauka] to the waterfront. It needs to have unique character and needs to be a unique beach experience.”

The many ocean-related businesses at the harbor will be included in the redevelopment plans and won’t be chased away, Randle said.

“There are lots of small businesses in the area [and] it’s a big focus of ours to look at the harbor holistically,” he said. “Everything we are doing right is focusing on the success of those small businesses. We are already kicking off marketing efforts to get people to connect with those businesses to make it easier for people to do those activities, [including] creating a website.”

For Greg Longnecker, owner of eight boats at the harbor that provide recreational activities such as Xtreme Parasail and Hawaii Pirate Ship, the developer’s involvement in the redevelopment is long overdue.

“I moved here in 1983, so I remember the McWayne Marine era when we had more boats in the harbor than today,” he told PBN. “That’s the focal point of the city. We don’t even have a focal point. Everywhere you go, the focal point of the city is always the harbor.”

Longnecker noted that Kewalo Basin Harbor should be the gateway to the city and that The Howard Hughes Corp. sees that vision and wants it.

“Finally, we have someone with a vision for the harbor,” he said. “It has been forgotten.”

Longnecker also said he is not concerned at all about slip rents going up or about megayachts moving into the area.

“This is not a megayacht destination because it’s too rough,” he said. “Rate schedules are in the rules. Any time you can make the harbor more crowded, it brings in more business for businesses like mine.”

Longnecker said he would like to see at least 10 restaurants at the harbor.

Randle declined to specify what type of investment would be going into the land part of the redevelopment, although the developer has been previously noted that a $20 million investment would go into renovating the harbor itself, including the boat slips and other infrastructure.

He said that Howard Hughes is close to selecting a design/build team to do the work on this part of the project. The team would proceed with finalizing construction design and getting that part under construction. Permits for this work have been approved.

“The next step is refining the designs for improvements that will achieve those goals,” Randle said. “We will have public engagement to share those plans. We will take this input, and once we kick of design, we can schedule the next meeting.”

If all goes as planned, it is the developer’s hope to get things going sometime this year.

The Howard Hughes Corp., which has development rights for a total of 22 high-rise condominiums across the street, took control of the Kewalo Basin Harbor in September.

It secured the lease for the harbor for up to 45 years in a public-private partnership aimed at revitalizing the small commercial boat harbor, which currently has 144 boat slips in various states of disrepair.

Duane Shimogawa Reporter – Pacific Business News

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