Natatorium repairs, scheduled to begin today, postponed

Honolulu Advertiser
By Johnny Brannon
Advertiser Staff Writer

Emergency repairs to the crumbling Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium that had been scheduled to start today have been postponed until late next month because construction materials have not arrived from the Mainland, city officials said.

Meanwhile, Mayor Jeremy Harris criticized mayoral candidates Duke Bainum and Mufi Hannemann for both saying either of them would stop the project if elected on Tuesday.

Harris said failing to shore up the 1920s-era pool and deck structure “could endanger people’s lives and place the city in legal jeopardy for any harm that could result from such a short-sighted act.”

Parts of the structure have “deteriorated so badly that it is in imminent danger of crashing into the water below,” Harris said in a written statement. ” … It is urgent that we mitigate the hazards immediately.”

But opponents of a stalled plan to restore the natatorium applauded Bainum and Hannemann for pledging during a debate Tuesday to halt the work, which is expected to cost $6 million.

“Obviously, we’re pleased as could be,” said Rick Bernstein of the Save Kaimana Beach coalition, a group fighting to have the pool demolished and replaced with open beach. He said the group opposes any commercial activity at the site, and wants to make sure the concrete bleachers are also demolished.

Activists and city officials have debated for more than a decade over what should be done with the pool and decorative archway, built in 1927 to honor World War I veterans from Hawai’i.

Harris had planned to restore the entire structure and spent $4 million in 1998 to repair its bleachers and adjoining wall before a lawsuit forced the work to stop. Bainum and Hannemann said the pool portion should bedemolished. Both said that any future use of the site must recognize veterans.

A contractor hired by the city had been scheduled to begin deploying construction equipment and materials at the site today. But that won’t happen until at least Nov. 29 because steel trestles and heavy lumber for the project have yet to arrive from the Mainland, according to city spokeswoman Carol Costa.

Contractor Healy Tibbitts Builders Inc. did not return calls seeking comment.

The plans call for driving more than 80 pilings into the interior of the pool area to shore up the pool’s deck and seawalls. The nearby Waikiki Aquarium has raised concerns that the work could disturb its collection of rare fishes.

Reach Johnny Brannon at jbrannon@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8070.