The student news site of Kalani High School

Kakaako’s new face: the changing landscape of our island

May 17, 2017

We’ve all asked ourselves “When is this finally going to be over?” as we slowly pass through traffic under the gleaming new high rise being built. The construction boom in Kakaako and around the island has caused a lot of headaches for a lot of people. The construction boom in Honolulu has been hailed by some as a great transition for Honolulu, which they believe is becoming a modern city. However, others believe that the construction boom is an attempt at gentrifying Honolulu and pricing out the poor. The changing landscape in Kakaako has brought up many questions about the future of Honolulu. Is this the new normal? Will Kakaako be the only place they try to urbanize or are they going to come after my neighborhood? Are the countrysides going to disappear if we do continue down this path? And will I be able to afford to live in Honolulu if the cost of living keeps rising? These questions are all part of the large debate going on between the people of Hawaii and our representatives. The outcome of this debate will determine the future look and feel of our islands.
Kakaako: The Canary in a Coal Mine

Kakaako is no doubt a warning sign about urbanization and redevelopment on the island. Kakaako has shown us that these two words usually toted around by politicians as examples of progress being made under their administration, can actually be harmful to the people who live and work around the island. In these past few years, we’ve seen more and more residential high rises being built. Everyone thought that they would alleviate the high housing prices and take care of the homeless issue but instead they exacerbated them. The high rises weren’t meant for the everyday middle class person of Hawaii to purchase. These are high class, high end properties. You could say that’s not an uncommon sight in Hawaii, we are one of the most expensive states to live in after all, but the sudden introduction of so much high rises so soon has created issues. As a result of the new high priced property, surrounding areas had a boost in property value leading to higher rent and home prices, along with that these properties have been swooped up by rich foreigners which in turn lead to higher prices for us as businesses saw an opportunity to capitalize on the situation. All of which has compounded on the regular middle class worker making the already difficult way of life here in Hawaii even harder.

The Side Effects

Everyone already knows about the obvious issues that come with having a construction frenzy right in the heart of a city. Traffic, loud construction noise and closed sidewalks are just a few examples of the direct impacts on daily life that the construction boom has been having but along with that the construction boom is also inconveniencing us in other ways that we may not even be aware of. The construction boom increased the demand for construction workers, which in turn raised the price of doing construction. Unfortunately, for many students in Hawaii, crucial improvements like air conditioning units for schools have been halted, simply because schools cannot afford to pay the high base cost of installing them let alone keep up with the cost of running and maintaining them. The construction boom has also affected the entire look and feel of our city. Kakaako, a previously industrial neighborhood has shifted into a commercial district. All around you see high end bistros popping up, mainland name brand stores and spray painted murals that try to give off a trendy poor neighborhood vibe so the rich can feel what it’s like without actually going to them.

When The Dust Has Settled

In the end, none of us can predict with 100% certainty what the future look of Hawaii will be like. However, by looking at examples like Kakaako, where rapid construction has gone on unregulated, we can get a pretty good idea of how things are going to go. Maybe the construction boom will spread to the rest of the island and we’ll all be priced out of Hawaii or maybe they will be content with only consuming Kakaako, only time will tell. The point is that we need to be cautious about what we let happen on our island. We are going to need to think hard about what we deem necessary to be built and what is just there to make someone else a profit, because we’re an island, we don’t have unlimited space or resources and if we just ignore that fundamental issue it’s going to catch up to us eventually.

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