SOHO: South Honolulu

Many local pundits are claiming that Kakaʻako is the future. But its name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. The area around Honolulu harbor was originally called Kou, and the name Honolulu – calm/sheltered bay – was a kind of marketing scheme in the early 1800s to attract ships and trade. A new scheme may be needed to help the redevelopment of the underutilized area South of King. Many cities are adopting this approach. Besides the two original Sohos in New York and London (New York’s is SoHo), San Francisco has SoMa (South of Market) and Denver has created LoDo (Lower Downtown).

A couple of disclaimers: Iʻm not pro-development at all, but with our extreme housing crisis, it makes a lot of sense to redevelop land that hasn’t had agricultural or conservation use in, well, centuries. And as Victor Geminiani said at the Ideas Summit, “we need to build UP.” Second, Iʻm also very aware (and wary) of the renaming of Hawaiian places (see chapter two of my dissertation, Kuleana: A Genealogy of Native Tenant Rights.) So I’ve conceived of SOHO as an area overlapping, but not supplanting Kakaʻako. In my conception, South Honolulu is everything South of King that’s not Waikiki or Kalihi – that is, from Ala Moana past Honolulu Tower until about Waiakamilo.

There are many plans for Kakaʻako, including one by Kamehameha Schools.

An early phase of Kamehameha’s “Our Kakaʻako” plan, Six Eighty Ala Moana. It has income requirements and a built-in Starbucks.

As Honolulu Magazine pointed out regarding one particular neighborhood:

Block F. It’s a clinical-sounding name for what’s become a quirky, creatively-charged row of businesses, boutiques and galleries on Auahi Street in Kakaako. Right now the line-up of shops includes R/D, ii Gallery, LIMB Workshop, Hank’s Haute Dogs, Paiko, the revolving pop-up Taste and regular events such as the monthly Night Market.

The hip mix of art and retail is part of Kamehameha Schools’ larger plan for the neighborhood; right now the landowner is marketing it as “Our Kakaako.”

Hip or not, with the likely development of Hoʻopili and Koa Ridge and housing prices at an all-time high (condos at least, at $345,00), we need to encourage living in the city, preferably car-free. One development, The Collection at 600 Ala Moana, is offering one- to three-bedroom apartments, but while the one bedrooms are relatively affordable at $300,000, the three bedrooms are $700,000 – very difficult for a family these days. So affordability needs to be factored into any development plan for South Honolulu, and the definition of “affordable” also needs to be reexamined.

Screen shot 2013-09-22 at 7.32.10 AMFinal disclaimer (or feeble attempt at transparency): Ikaika Hussey and I started a T-Shirt campaign for SOHO. Go to


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