Hawaii Needs Housing, Not an Entertainment District
The redevelopment of Aloha Stadium provides an opportunity for A.L.O.H.A. (Affordable, Locally-Owned Homes for All)
The current proposal for the redevelopment of Aloha Stadium site is economically unrealistic. I support building a new stadium, but I believe we must also build at least 100,000 units of housing at the site. The 98-acre Stadium parcel, with an onsite rail station, represents a unique opportunity to build enough homes to actually end Hawaii’s housing shortage and ensure that one job is enough for generations of local people.
Today’s redevelopment proposal has state taxpayers fronting the $350 million to build a new stadium with plans to recoup that from the profits of a new shopping mall, office building, hotel, and 1,813 market-rate condominiums. Those new buildings will consume over 60 acres of the 98 acre site. Let’s be real: this plan is not going to happen. The coronavirus pandemic has destroyed the market for brick and mortar retail. A recent study estimated that retail vacancies on Oʻahu will grow by 270,000 square feet in 2021 alone. With the rise of remote work, the market for office space has been hit hard. Neither of these trends is expected to change anytime soon.
If state lawmakers were serious about generating revenue, they would focus instead on reversing the four straight years of population decline in Hawaiʻi. The customer base for every business in Hawaiʻi--and the tax base of the State--is shrinking with every passing year. People are leaving because the rent is too damn high. By embarking on a serious housing construction program, offering reasonably priced condos to hundreds of thousands of local people, the State will generate enormous amounts of economic activity and dramatically expand the tax base.
Fortunately, we have a roadmap to do so. One option is to pass SB737, introduced by Senator Stanley Chang, which requires 100,000 homes at the Stadium site, at least 80% of them affordable to those making 80% of the area median income. This construction also fulfills the statutory obligation of the State of Hawaiʻi under HRS § 226-19 to “effectively accommodate the housing needs of Hawaiʻi’s people.” The use of state owned land near rail stations to develop high density housing has been championed by Governor Ige and the Legislature as a viable solution to house Hawaii’s people without adding substantial traffic to the already congested arteries of Honolulu.
Many other stadiums around the world are surrounded by high density development -- Madison Square Garden in New York City, the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai and Happy Valley Racecourse in Hong Kong, to name a few. If the new Aloha Stadium is seven acres, the same size as Soldier Field in Chicago, an N.F.L. with a capacity of 61,500 seats, there would be a remaining 91 acres or over 90% of total space available for development of high density affordable housing.
Those supporting the current plan are trying to rush the proposal through without enabling substantial housing construction onsite, but we have two options to make our voices heard. First, contacting your legislator to support SB737 this session (and other bills to maximize state-owned lands) would ensure that none of these precious parcels would be wasted. Second, and more importantly, the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the current redevelopment at the new Aloha Stadium is currently accepting feedback, so please submit your testimony requesting 100,000 housing units at the stadium site to firstname.lastname@example.org by the deadline of Monday, February 8. By including 100,000 homes in this EIS, the state will be able to undertake construction of both the new stadium as well as new housing without delay.