There has been uproar in our Historic Chinatown district of Honolulu. It’s only been a few weeks since the installation of the “bulb outs” on various Chinatown corners and there has already been a flood of complaints by merchants and residents alike. The bulb outs seemingly came out of nowhere. Businesses closed for the day and went home to rest…returned the next morning to red painted corners. A few days later they opened their shops only to see the City & County installing giant cement planters and blocks along with tall white plastic spikes. They were not the least bit pleased.
We are told the blub outs are to increase pedestrian “safety.” Honestly, we have sidewalks already so why do we need to expand them? Why not add speed bumps to slow traffic down instead and for much lower cost. I understand the concept they were going for and I love how cities around the world are increasing their “walk-ability” by undertaking various projects to increase foot traffic and lower the use and need of vehicles. The difference here though is that Chinatown, Honolulu is designated a “Historic District.” Thus, I feel, Chinatown is the inappropriate place for such modifications.
The idea of designating something as “historic” is to preserve it in all of its historical beauty and ambiance to help retain some of the culture and beauty of the past. When we disregard the designation and start modernizing these areas we lose the intrinsic value and elegance of the district.
What about the businesses that are impacted? Many merchants were not consulted during the process and now are forced to look out of their shop doors and windows at these obscene bulb outs. They have reported complaints by delivery drivers and garbage disposal services, because there is nowhere to pull over to drop off goods & supplies or pick up trash.
Emergency services also made it known, politely, that they too have an issue with the project. They are unable to efficiently maneuver their vehicles around the corners due to the bulb outs. This is an extremely serious concern as now lives and properties are at great risk.
I, along with the Chinatown community leaders, have gone around and helped collect nearly 3,000 signatures asking for the removal of these bulb outs. There was such overwhelming support for the petition that we are on our second time extension for collecting signatures.
I completely support projects and ideas to get people out-n-about on foot. I think it’s great to have people walking around and taking advantage of the many sights and businesses Honolulu, or any city/town has to offer. By making buildings and city blocks more pedestrian friendly it encourages more social interaction and really helps use all of the “space” in an effective manner. I just disagree with modifying our Historically Designated Chinatown District as I feel, and many others, that we should be preserving the history and not painting/building over it.
I have included links to various news articles concerning the topic below. (Note: you may not be able to see the Honolulu Star Advertiser’s articles without a subscription…my apologies.)
Please let me know what you think!
– James Logue