Still hope for Hilo redevelopment proposals

  • Uncle Billy's General Store and closed hotel is seen here Thursday in Hilo. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald)

HILO — Three bills seeking to encourage redevelopment of Hilo’s Banyan Drive hotel area remain alive in the state Legislature.

Lawmakers came close to adopting legislation last year that would have allocated 10 percent of the state’s land leases in the area to a redevelopment agency. Versions of the bill, introduced by Sen. Kai Kahele, passed both chambers, but the bill died in conference committee.

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Hawaii County created a Banyan Drive redevelopment agency several years ago. However, the effort to implement a plan has stalled due to funding issues. Most of the land in the area, also known as the Waiakea Peninsula, is state owned.

Kahele, D-Hilo, has introduced another version of the legislation this session — Senate Bill 914 — which has passed the Senate and one House committee. The bill will next be heard by the House Finance Committee.

Other Banyan Drive bills are:

— House Bill 910: Introduced by Rep. Richard Onishi, this bill funds an infrastructure study for the area.

— HB 1219: Introduced by Onishi, this bill creates the Waiakea Peninsula Redevelopment District Revolving Fund.

HB 910 and HB 1219 have both passed the House.

Kahele also introduced a bill to provide $2 million to $4 million for demolition of the former Uncle Billy’s Hilo Bay Hotel on Banyan Drive ahead of potential redevelopment of the site. That legislation died earlier this session, but another related bill remains alive.

SB 1252 seeks to pass on demolition costs of buildings on state lands to a new developer in exchange for the state Board of Land and Natural Resources authorizing rent reductions for up to 20 years.

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That bill passed the Senate and has been referred to three House committees.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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