June 22, 2006
Importance of Chinatown
We recognize and appreciate Chinatown's historic, cultural, and economic importance. Chinatown's assets-its architecture, businesses, ethnic diversity, restaurants, and arts and culture-are the core of its uniqueness and must be preserved.
Introduced a City Council resolution in 1997, creating an art enterprise zone to accelerate efforts to promote culture and the arts while providing opportunities for business and commerce. Most recently developed a partnership with Ford Foundation that resulted in a grant of $400,000 to support a culture and arts center in Chinatown.
Chinatown has gained national attention. Last month, John Nau, Chairman of the White House Advisory Council on Historical Preservation, informed me that Chinatown had been selected as a Preserve America Community Neighborhood. First Lady Laura Bush also congratulated Hawaii on this honor last week.
Announced in state-of-the-City address that we wanted to bring stakeholders together to take stock of what's happening in Chinatown and realize its potential. Summit will enable us to collectively determine how we can revitalize Chinatown and harness its economic potential, while also developing a vibrant culture and arts environment.
Must consider such basic issues as public safety, parking, and clean streets. Also need to consider the roles of stakeholders. City is looking to public-private partnerships where government, business, community groups, organizations, and individuals leverage their resources for the greater good.
Current City Services
Police: Honolulu Police Department's Chinatown substation provides permanent police presence. Chinatown has beat patrols, rookie patrols, bicycle patrols, a Weed and Seed unit, a crime reduction unit, and narcotics/vice involvement. Key tool is Weed and Seed, where HPD "weeds" through arrests, citations, and other law enforcement measures and the community "seeds" through projects with help from HPD. Example is the Aala Park clean-up. HPD says public involvement is essential.
Lighting: City will complete lighting improvements along River and Hotel streets, from River to Bethel Street, by end of August 2006. City will assess need for increased lighting on Pauahi, from River to Maunakea.
Pedestrian Safety: City is reviewing safety guidelines with help from consultant. HPD is partnering with local organizations to promote Operation Jaywalk to educate pedestrians and drivers; stepped-up enforcement will bolster compliance.
Parking: Public perception is that there is not enough parking and that it's not safe. City has 169 metered stalls and plans for an additional 14 on Smith and Pauahi Streets. City's seven municipal parking lots have 3,200 stalls, half of which are for public parking. City will provide parking directional signs for the two garages that have all-day parking. Mayor's office will produce a historic tour map with parking and bus information.
City has begun Project Park Safe, beginning with Hale Pauahi parking, featuring new, brighter lighting fixtures replacing old fluorescents. Exit signs were replaced with LEDs. Upcoming project is Chinatown Gateway, where improvements will include brighter lighting and repainted walls that increase illumination and enhance safety. Stairwells at Chinatown Gateway have been repainted to make them cleaner and brighter.
Sanitation: Mayor's Clean Team, with 23 employees, maintains Chinatown and Downtown areas. Team services 129 litter containers, seven days a week, and power-washes 254,000 square feet of sidewalks four times a year. Only in Chinatown does the City provide special trash pick up for commercial establishments; the 4:006:00 a.m. pick-up ensures trucks are out of the way as the workday begins.
Quality of Life Issues
Smith-Beretania Park: New recreation area for the community.
Landowners: Two years ago, City passed an ordinance that allows living units to be built on second floors; however, high cost of upgrading to code, as well as permitting requirements, have prevented landowners from pursuing these options. City is working with State Historic Preservation Office to explore ways to balance historic preservation with project feasibility to make adaptive reuse of Chinatown's buildings a reality. City has provided technical assistance to landowners and Honolulu Culture and Arts District on façade restoration on Hotel Street; project was awarded $250,000 grant-in-aid this past legislative session.
Community Support: City, through Department of Community Services, provides low-interest commercial rehabilitation loan program to promote rehabilitation of structures in Chinatown. Recent loans of more than $400,000 have been provided to open a fish market on King Street and to reroof and resurface parking lots on several properties on Hotel Street. With federal grants, City provides funding to qualified applicants for economic revitalization projects that have included façade improvements to Hawaii Theatre and for development of a retail incubator for micro-businesses on North King Street. City has contributed more than $700,000 to the Hawaii Theatre for its programs and restoration since it reopened in 1996. Using HUD funding, City provides annual support of more than $200,000 to Safe Haven, a residential and day program for individuals with severe mental illnesses.
Homelessness: Cannot ignore problem but there is no universal remedy. Challenges are beyond the City's means and capabilities, but City will do its part to work with the state government. Looking for ideas and partnerships to help address this issue in Chinatown.
City has enjoyed many successes in developing public-private partnerships. Chinatown Gateway Park involves Hawaii Theatre, Indigo Restaurant, and Plumbers and Fitters Union to maintain the park. This year, for the first time ever, encouraged largest organizations in Chinatown to cooperate and collaborate on a unified Chinese New Year celebration. Seeking to provide funding for next year's observance, to include Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Nuuanu Merchants Association, United Chinese Coalition, and United Chinese Society.
White House Advisory Council on Historical Preservation designation of Chinatown as Preserve America Community Neighborhood opens door for grant to help us preserve Chinatown. Private sector involvement will be vital.
City Leadership in Chinatown's Future:
Mayor Mufi Hannemann's Top Ten Ideas for Chinatown:
Homelessness: Commit a property on River Street to aid in homeless and social welfare issues. Now seeking a public-private partnership to redevelop the site; possibilities include transitional housing, single-room dwellings, or 12 bedroom apartments for families.
Arts Incubator: Create an arts incubator in Chinatown, modeled after the successful Arts at Marks Garage concept. The incubator will provide fledgling groups with business and administrative apprenticeships.
Night-time Activities: Provide a grant to enable a partnership, including Hawaii Pacific University, to pilot an evening movie at Fort Street Mall to encourage more evening activities, in addition to successful First Fridays. Plan to encourage more frequent efforts.
Tourism: Promote Chinatown as a visitor attraction, using the ideas contained in the Oahu Strategic Tourism Plan spearheaded by our Economic Development Office. Plan calls for improvements to the Nimitz Highway corridor as an alternative entrance to Chinatown, and also for promoting activities where culture and the arts bring products and services to visitors.
Federal Funding: Take advantage of the Preserve America Neighborhood designation, the first for Hawaii, to leverage federal funding for preservation projects.
Sister-Cities: Use Honolulu's sister-city relationship with Zonghshan, the birthplace of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, as an incentive for greater involvement in commemorative activities in 2007.
Sports: Increase support for the Dragon Boat Festival and invite our sister-cities and Dragon Boat associations from all over the world to participate in this grand finale of the Dragon Boat Racing season.
Bright Idea Mini-Awards - Incentives for Participation: Cooperate with the Ford Foundation and Hawaii Arts Alliance to make Bright Idea Mini-Awards for grassroots-generated ideas to revitalize Chinatown. Ford Foundation has donated $20,000, which American Savings Bank, Bank of Hawaii, Central Pacific Bank, First Hawaiian Bank, and Hawaii National Bank have matched.
Transit: Use mass transit as the foundation for the development of Chinatown and the creation of new economic opportunities.
Internet: Establish a public-private partnership with Earthlink to pilot free broadband Internet access in Chinatown. In addition to personal and business applications, a wi-fi network can improve police video surveillance capabilities.