Caldwell Offers A New Multimillion-Dollar Option For Natatorium

Civil Beat, December 11, 2017
by Marcel Honore

He’s not sure yet whether he would embrace the perimeter-deck design.

“This is a mishmash,” Bernstein said of the proposal after listening to Caldwell on Monday.  “I haven’t studied it. I don’t know. I think that keeping the bleachers is a giant mistake because it opens the door to commercialization.”

“Twenty-five hundred seats in service of what?”

Meanwhile, Mo Radke, president of the nonprofit Friends of the Natatorium, which has spent more than 30 years pushing city and state officials to restore the memorial, said he could support the perimeter decks because it  keeps the facade and keeps the bleachers.

Dueling visions over the Natatorium have led to spirited debate — and even bad blood — for about 50 years.

That was apparent Monday after the news conference, when things got testy between Bernstein and Radke. While being interviewed, Bernstein told Radke to “keep moving” as Radke passed by. The two had a heated exchange before Bernstein resumed the interview several paces away.

Mo Radke, president of Friends of the Natatorium, wants to ensure the Natatorium’s facade and bleachers remain intact. Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

In May 2013, Caldwell joined then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie in front of the Natatorium to announce their joint plan to replace the dilapidated war memorial with a beach and park area.

Little appears to have changed since then. But Kroning said Monday that “we have made significant … progress.”

“Some of the reasons why it does take so long is because that process is very complicated. And on top of that, when it’s a controversial issue … you get a lot more input in your process, and so that takes time.”

Pressed for more details on what stalled the previous push with Abercrombie  more than four years ago, Caldwell replied, “if you were listening to what I said, we haven’t stopped. We haven’t stalled.”

Mayor Kirk Caldwell addresses the media in front of the Natatorium War Memorial on Monday. Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

“What has happened is there’s another alternative for people to consider,” he said.

Caldwell hopes construction on the selected plan could begin before his second term through 2020 expires. Otherwise, work on the controversial issue might stall under his successor, he said.

When Caldwell asked Kroning whether that was possible, he hesitated. “If things all line up perfectly, we can get that to happen,” Kroning eventually answered. He added that if the project got the necessary permits expedited, “there’s a chance.”

Bernstein, meanwhile, hasn’t given up on his preferred beach option.

“Hope springs eternal,” he said Monday. “I would love to see progress made. It’s such a contentious issue and there are vested interests that are entrenched.”