There is new construction boom in Honolulu, and it’s taking place smack-dab in the middle of Honolulu’s urban corridor in Kakaako. As I write, I can see six construction cranes at work. Once a little thought of commercial no-man’s land, Kakaako is being gentrified. Developers seek to create a new urban core in Kakaako, with residential and commercial spaces filling the area between Ward Avenue and South Street just outside of Downtown-proper. It’s a controversial plan, sparking concerns over traffic and infrastructure, native Hawaiian burials, and affordable housing. And as the debate continues, Kakaako is quickly becoming a destination for residents and visitors alike who are seeking out its eclectic bistros, gastropubs, galleries, and creative workspaces. With regular food and art street events, developers are working hard to make the area a destination. Here two reasons that Kakaako is worth checking out.
The art scene is flourishing. Vibrant murals by internationally acclaimed street artists are becoming a more and more familiar site. Galleries like Limb, Kakaako Agora, and The 808 Urban Refuge are bringing a modern aesthetic to Honolulu, creating dynamic spaces for music and art. Once the exclusive province of salespeople and warehouse workers, Kakaako is now home to a much younger demographic interested in artistic and community development.
There are loads of great eateries. REAL a Gastropub has an extensive and affordable menu and a curated beer menu. Doraku Sushi has become a popular happy hour (or “pau hana”) spot for young professionals. Café Duck Butt offers karaoke in addition to its eclectic menu, which includes include Kalbi tacos. Restaurateurs in Kakaako are seemingly keen to create dishes that honor Hawaii’s culinary traditions while introducing novel, nontraditional elements. There are dozens of old and new eateries throughout Kakaako.
During Honolulu’s construction boom of the 1970’s and 80’s, hotels and high rises were springing up with alarming regularity. The running joke at the time was that the ubiquitous construction crane should be made the State Bird. Major cities across the U.S. were undergoing a similar transformation, and the construction crane became the unofficial State Bird in cities like Dallas and San Francisco. During the 1990’s the Honolulu construction boom moved to the Ewa plain, where single family homes and townhouses now sprawl for miles.
The boom is back, now in Kakaako. Easily accessible by bus or taxi from Waikiki (parking can be maddening), Kakaako is becoming increasingly popular with visitors as more and more residents are coming to the area to see what all the fuss is about. Over a dozen high rises are planned for the area, with housing options running the gamut from “affordable” to “you’ve got to be kidding.” Further retail, art spaces, and restaurants are in the works. Development is here to stay in Kakaako. And most of it is aimed at attracting you.