Honolulu City Council defers decision on mall tower changes

HONOLULU — City planners have asked Honolulu City Council to consider major amendments to a city transit-oriented development plan that would build five towers on parking deck areas of the state’s largest shopping center, potentially hindering the areas scenic views.

Under the proposal, the proposed towers would stand up to 400 feet (122 meters) and would be built around the location of a rail station scheduled for construction next to the Ala Moana Center and at the end of Oahu’s 20-mile (32-kilometer) transit line, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

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Currently, the height limit for the mall site is 100 feet (30 meters). But with community benefit contributions those heights can increase to 150 feet (45 meters) for most of the site and 350 feet (106 meters) for a strip along the Diamond Head corner, officials said.

“We don’t think if the towers move slightly closer to Ala Moana that it’s going to be that big a difference,” said Harrison Rue, city development administrator. “It’s not a huge change in the plan.”

The owner of the mall, Brookfield Property Partners, asked for amendments to the city transit-oriented development plan last year to allow greater development on its property and sought to triple the amount of allowed building floor area at most of the mall from 5.4 million square feet to 15.2 million square feet (500,000 square meters to 1.4 million square meters). Proposed changes also included allowing full-service hotels.

Only four of the nine City Council members were at Thursday’s meeting. They ultimately deferred advancing the proposed changes to the full City Council over concerns about density and lack of public comment.

“This decision is going to affect how our city is going to look,” Councilman Tommy Waters said.

Council members Waters, Brandon Elefante, committee Chairman Ron Menor and Ann Kobayashi agreed.

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“We definitely need more public discussion,” Menor said.

A representative from Brookfield Property Partners did not participate in Thursday’s meeting. But the company has said it is unfair for the mall to not have parity with surrounding properties for development.

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