Sunday, April 01, 2012
Governor Abercrombie sells State Capitol building and grounds to Kakaako developer
by Larry Geller
HONOLULU April 1, 2012—A search of public records at the Bureau of Conveyances has revealed that Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie had sold the state capitol building and grounds to a developer under a lease-back arrangement signed in December, 2011. No public announcement accompanied the sale, and details have proven hard to find.
What papers reveal is that a 650-foot tower is proposed to be built in the atrium of the State Capitol Building. The governor’s suite and offices would be moved to the penthouse structure at the top. The rest of the structure would be an unspecified mix of luxury and “affordable” housing, with priority for both going to state legislators and employees. Below the tower would be parking spaces for 3,250 cars.
The lower floors would be available for development as retail space under a mixed-use permit. A unique feature of the tower would be elevators designed to move goods up and down within the structure, from the parking lot or the retail stores to the upper floors. Under the mixed-use concept, legislators and government officials residing and working in the tower would never have to leave the building and venture into the “real world.” All of their needs would be met within the tower.
Security stations above the retail floors would assure privacy and isolation from the public.
Attempts to reach the Governor to ask about the secrecy with which the deal was done were unsuccessful. Instead, this reporter lurked around the weight training room at the Nuuanu YMCA until the Governor showed up for his usual workout. When confronted with the architect’s drawing of the proposed Capitol Tower, the Governor would only comment:
“We have a state of emergency in Hawaii today. There’s not enough land available for development. Environmentalists want to preserve farm land, and community activists don’t want large buildings in their backyards. So we can’t build out, and we can’t build up.
“Developers will leave the islands unless we provide jobs for them. Who will build our homes, our offices, our shopping centers if they give up on Hawaii?
“I had to act, and I decided to set an example. This exciting development is not even in my backyard. It will be right up front, a bold exemplar of my New Day concept for Hawaii.”
The value of the sale did not appear in the public records. A figure of $1.5 billion was crossed out and initialed on an accompanying tax document. The lease cost to legislators for occupying their offices, currently provided to them at no charge, appeared comparable to commercial square-foot lease rates currently advertised.
“Why should government get a free ride,” the Governor commented. “Given the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling it should be possible for legislators to raise enough corporate sponsorship to pay their own rent. The income will go into the general fund to support further New Day development projects. It sounds like a win-win proposal to me.”
State legislators would not comment since they have not yet been informed of the deal.
“It’s a New Day, and any legislator unwilling to use corporate contributions to pay the rent can stay home and get work done on their iPads.”
That wasn't in the plans.
But now that you've mentioned a heliport, I'm sure they could pencil one in.