Mayor wants natatorium project done, ALL of it

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Star-Bulletin

Harris tells a Circuit Court hearing that a suit to halt the project is why the city is working the job in pieces

Mayor Jeremy Harris wants it clear he still wants full restoration at the Waikiki War Memorial and Natatorium.

“My goal is to build the whole project,” the mayor said in Circuit Court yesterday. “I can’t build the whole project now because of this lawsuit.”

Harris was referring to the suit brought by the Kaimana Beach Coalition, which is seeking to stop all aspects of the $11.5 million restoration project.

The Harris administration and a majority of City Council members say they want to proceed with just the facade portion of the project — for now.

Circuit Judge Gary Won Bae Chang is expected to make a decision on the injunction within a week.

“Ultimately, we want to do the entire project, we want to put in the pool and do the underwater demolition,” Harris said. “But immediately, we want to get to work and fix up the restrooms so the city can use them.”

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
Mayor Jeremy Harris talks to the media after his testimony
in Circuit Court against an injunction to stop
construction on the natatorium.

Harris said the city believes it has all the permits necessary to proceed on the land portions of the restoration. That work has been stalled, however, because of a temporary restraining order granted by Circuit Judge Gail Nakatani last month.
The order is good until Chang makes a decision on a preliminary injunction.

The Kaimana Beach Coalition is arguing that a special management area use permit issued for the restoration project requires that the city get all permits, including those dealing with underwater portions, before proceeding on any work.

The coalition is also arguing that canceling the pool portion of the contract means the city needs to get a new special management area use permit from the City Council because the scope of the entire project would be significantly altered. That’s why Harris’ insistence that his ultimate intent is to carry out the entire restoration is significant.

Several weeks ago, Harris announced he is canceling the pool portion of the contract. Court-related delays have made it impossible to keep the entire project under budget, he said. Yesterday, he stressed that while the pool has been scrapped from the current project, he’s hoping to find funding for it.

Harris said: “For the pool to be constructed we are going to have to get alternate funding.” It could come through the Council, he said, or through federal programs, veteran organizations or other nonprofit agencies.

Also yesterday, Harris aide Peter Radulovic testified that he had initial talks with Polynesian Cultural Center officials about the possibility of setting up shows at the natatorium. The issue was dropped when center officials did not get back to him, Radulovic said.

David Preece, a former center official now with the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, said the center chose not to pursue a partnership with the city at the natatorium for various reasons.

If Chang grants a preliminary injunction, work would halt until an actual trial is held and a decision is made on a permanent injunction.

James Bickerton, coalition attorney, said denial of a preliminary injunction would be a serious blow since substantial work could be done on the natatorium before a final decision is made.