City lays out future possibilities for a crumbling Waikiki landmark

City lays out future possibilities for a crumbling Waikiki landmark
The city has completed its final EIS for the Waikiki restoration project. Critics say the city's plan will lead to commercialization of the area. (Source: Hawaii News Now)

WAIKIKI, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) -The city has completed its final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Waikiki Natatorium, marking a major step toward restarting the rebuilding effort.

The EIS paves the way for the city begin looking for funding and issuing requests for proposals for the crumbling Waikiki landmark. It has been closed for four decades. Efforts to rebuild the Natatorium have been stalled by litigation.

Among the options examined by the city’s EIS include:

  • Fully enclosing the Natatorium’s pool, which will cost $42.7 million;
  • Tearing down the seawalls and creating an open beach, which will cost $35.2 million;
  • And, the city’s preferred plan of building a perimeter deck, which will cost $31.8 million.

“The best option by far is the perimeter deck because it preserves the historic structure, it preserves what was meant to be, and it allows the community to come back and enjoy what once was," said Mo Radke of the Friends of the Waikiki Natatorium.

Radke believes the project can be paid for through a combination of city funds and the help of a private developer.

Under the city’s plan, it will cost nearly $1 million a year to operate the Natatorium. Critics argue that it will lead the commercialization of the memorial.

“This report makes clear they’re contemplating a public-private partnership which basically means selling off chunks of it or renting it out to pay for this great expense," said Jim Bickerton, attorney for the Save Kaimana Beach Coalition.

“The real objection is, we’ve always wanted this place to be a public and open space that the public can go and use anytime they want,” he said.

Project supporters said any commercial activities will be limited.

“Friends of the Natatorium and I absolutely disagree with an open commercialization of the site. It’s for veterans and for the people of Hawaii," said Radke.

Copyright 2019 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.