Trust wants Natatorium preserved

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
By Star-Bulletin staff

Restoring and preserving the basic structure of the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium is the city’s “best option” for dealing with the aging historic structure, a national preservation group says.

In a letter to the Waikiki Natatorium Task Force, the National Trust for Historic Preservation says continued neglect poses a serious risk to the marine environment, but it does not recommend demolition.

Doing so would increase the time and cost to the city because of the added permits and environmental studies that would be required for razing a structure listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the letter said.

“The city’s best option is to proceed with the already approved rehabilitation of the historic structure by, at the very minimum, stabilizing the bleachers and pool,” Trust attorney Brian R. Turner wrote.

The letter was made public by the Friends of the Natatorium preservation group at a task force meeting yesterday.

“It’s just for people to understand that there would be another set of federal hoops to jump through if the Natatorium was altered or demolished,” said Donna Ching, board member of the group.

The task force was convened by Mayor Mufi Hannemann this year to study options for the future of the 82-year-old structure.

Hannemann has said he is seriously considering demolishing the pool—which the city closed in 1979—and relocating the familiar 100-ton archway and its four stone eagles.

The task force will make a recommendation to Hannemann after a series of public meetings.

Task Force Chairman Collins Lam, deputy director of the city Department of Design and Construction, said the letter from the National Trust was premature because the city has not determined what to do with the Natatorium.

Any added permits or studies that are needed would not be an issue, he said.

“We’re going to do whatever needs to be done to comply with federal, state and local rules,” Lam said.