Honolulu City Council approves housing tower in Chinatown

HONOLULU — The Honolulu City Council has endorsed an affordable rental housing tower for older adults on city land in Chinatown.

Council members voted Wednesday to provide regulatory approval for the 156-unit Halewaiolu Senior Residences project for older residents with low incomes, Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

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The Michaels Organization anticipated starting construction by June and delivering the project with monthly rent as low as $578 in 2023.

Project supporters include Democratic Gov. David Ige, affordable-housing advocates, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi and some older residents.

Ige said in a Jan. 12 letter that Halewaiolu will help address an affordable-housing crisis that has existed in Hawaii for decades.

The project will also help meet a state goal of adding 22,500 affordable homes by 2028, Ige said.

Some Chinatown residents said the project is badly needed.

“Honolulu has a critical need for affordable rentals for seniors who make up a vital but vulnerable segment of our population,” Warren Hamamoto told the council Wednesday.

Project opponents consist primarily of leaders of a group of Chinese cultural organizations.

They expressed fears the 17-story tower will redirect what they characterize as harmful emissions from a neighboring mortuary’s crematorium to the headquarters of Lum Sai Ho Tong Hawaii.

The cultural society has maintained the three-story Tin Hau Temple next to the Halewaiolu site for 132 years.

“We urge the developer and the city to please address the (air quality) concerns and help Lum Sai Ho Tong to find an acceptable remedy before building begins,” Lum Sai Ho Tong Vice President Howard Lum said.

The organization supported the project when the tower’s minimum distance from the temple property line was envisioned to be 40 feet.

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The New Jersey-based Michaels Organization should be held to the distance imposed by the council in 2016 as part of a development agreement with the city, Lum said.

The development company said engineering and architectural work since then required reduction of the tower separation to 23 feet, which is 23 feet more than city zoning rules require for the property and 73 feet from the temple building.

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