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Over the years, the State of Hawaii, the counties, the visitor industry and assorted developers have devised ways to attract you to our islands and to enhance your experience one you’re here. But it’s never easy.
After the tourist boom that followed WW II, ideas, construction and money – private and taxpayer – went into new hotels, shopping centers, attractions and venues created to impress our visitors. Concurrently, the conservative watchdogs impeded every step of modernization. They felt the islands were losing their charm, the heart of their culture and their aloha spirit—the very aspects of life in Hawaii that attracted visitors in the first place.
And the beat goes on.
Back in the 1980s, the City and County of Honolulu erected modern, big, orange, right-angular traffic-light poles on Kalakaua Avenue. Locals were appalled and raised some hell. Today, the traffic-light and streetlight poles are comparatively retro, more consistent with the décor of Old Hawaii.
Also in the 80s, the precious shoreline in Kakaako (between downtown Honolulu and Waikiki) was opened for development. Without question, the property could become the heart and soul of Hawaii’s identity, perhaps with an iconic presence that would beckon visitors as do the Statue of Liberty and the Sydney Opera House. Proposals were made, scrutinized, fought about and eventually dismissed. (In the meantime, the University of Hawaii Medical School was relocated to the area and provides an impressive – if unimaginative – presence.) The idea of fully developing the state-owned property remains a “some day” concept.
After the turn of this century, Outrigger Hotels and Resorts announced the grandest development in Waikiki’s history – the Waikiki Beach Walk complex of hotels, condominiums, restaurants, big-box retailers, upscale boutiques and entertainment venues. Local communities are still expressing resistance to such development as they see beloved local mom-and-pop stores and eateries continuing to close. The Kauai County Council recently voted to limit the size of the island’s retail stores to not more than 75,000 square feet in order to preserve the rural character of Kauai and avert a Wal-Mart Supercenter that had been planned to be the first in the state.
At first, the interisland Superferry system was met with resistance – especially on Kauai. Now, even though the ferry has seen success and is expanding its fleet and routes, the resistance continues.
The dominant issue in this year’s Honolulu mayoral election is the development of a high-speed rail system on Oahu; whether to build one, what mode of operation to use, and what alternatives are viable. Talk about treats, cajolery and controversy!
The rustic and charming International Marketplace in Waikiki will be redeveloped into a contemporary mixed-use resort destination that includes shopping, dining and entertainment. More resistance; more controversy. Die-hard locals point out that the marketplace is the last vestige of the “real” Hawaii visitors can experience in Waikiki.
With a pass so far is Disney’s proposed Ko Olina resort on Leeward Oahu that will include 350 hotel rooms and 480 timeshare vacation villas on 21 acres of oceanfront property, along with a small river, water slides several pools, a spa and a conference center. But the Disney developers certainly won’t escape local scrutiny before its planned opening in 2011.
All of the foregoing is to point out that what you encounter when you vacation in our islands is well thought out, carefully planned and tailored to your needs and dreams. Except, of course, for the natural wonders that will remain forever unchanged.