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Friday, December 23, 2011

HONOLULU IN THE YEAR 2020...OR 2050?

I've now and then attempted to predict the future of my home city, and that of President Barack Obama (who is on Air Force One back to Hawaii after a convincing victory over Republicans--I wish, though, he had better complimented them as Senator Harry Reid did--click on video playlist to the right--who was the real hero today).  Today, I suggest a best case scenario (after all, this is the holiday season) for Honolulu in the Year in 2020...or 2050, for much of my previous ruminations has suggested Hawaii being the canary in the coal mine for a global depression.

Also in the past, I have suggested that Hawaii get out of our current rut and do something inspirational and monumental, more specifically working together to win the 2020 World Expo.  While it is not too late because Sao Paulo would be our only competitor, I've given up on this pathway.  Sad, but there is no interest!

The biggest project to determine the future of this city is the $8 billion Honolulu Area Rapid Transit:



However, it continues to be in political, financial and technological trouble, and I would give it less than a 50-50 chance of succeeding.


As you know, there is a 650 foot tower being designed for Kakaako (the tallest one above, more than 221 feet higher than the current #1 at 429 feet, the First Hawaiian Center) at 690 Pohukaina St. next to a future mass transit site.  Yes, of course this project will suffer from massive protests consistent with our incredible ability to kill anything of visionary worthiness.  But this structure could well be the key to the future of Honolulu and Hawaii.

Scientific American in September featured cities, and how tall buildings were the solution to their success.  One would have thought that the terrorists destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11 signaled the doom for these superstructures.   It turns out that exactly the opposite has happened:


The globe on the left was 2007.  On the right is 2011.  New York City chose to build a 1776 foot tall edifice as a symbol of American will, and was formerly called Freedom Tower, but now, One World Trade Center (to the left, what to expect).  Much larger castles in the sky are in various stages of planning and construction around the globe for it has become the vogue to brand your country or city with an iconic supertall.  The best the USA could complete in 2010 was #19, Chicago's Legacy Tower.  Just about 100 new skyscrapers (200 meters = 656 feet or higher) will become operational this year.  China is building a new one every five days and will have 800 by 2016, which will be four times that of the USA.

What has happened to Planet Earth is that we now have too many people, with more and more wanting to live in cities.  The best solution is to reduce our population, but our only current priority is, apparently, to go up and up and next to mass transit locations to accommodate global urbanization.  One million people per week move to urban centers.  Actually, this high density answer makes sense, for the urban core of Chicago and New York City uses far less energy  per capita than those living in suburban or rural areas.

Thus, I propose that the City and County of Honolulu award franchises for six international consortia to build tall buildings, at least 650 feet, but up to 1000 feet, for which they will receive fast-tracked permits and pay no land rent (and or property taxes) for a hundred years.  The only stipulations are that they each construct this skyscraper adjacent to a HART station, plus include up to six restaurants culturally linked to their region, a major hotel and some form of entertainment attraction of their choice.  They should also kick in some of the cost the rail construction.  

Will there be a market for these superstructures?  How will hurricanes and earthquakes affect them?  First, if you build them they could come (I haven't run a study so this is no doubt much too wishful), and yes, 101 Taipei (1670 feet, left), the second tallest building, has withstood serious typhoons and earthquakes.  Clearly, I'm getting desperate for a solution to our future.

What can happen, then, by 2020, is a completed HART with seven steeples of attraction, each evocative of a region of the world.  If 2020 is too ambitious, well, just think what Honolulu might look like in 2050 with this model?  Financially, the trains will be better utilized if the populace uses them to go out to dinner or a show or cultural attraction or to conduct business.  Numerous international companies will establish Pacific headquarters here, for what better way to communicate than to hop on the mass transit line and within half an hour be virtually anywhere you want to meet a client or participate in a meeting.

Will these 1000 foot tall buildings destroy the harmony of our skyline?  Well, consider that the Eiffel Tower (1063 feet) will continue to be taller any of these local "skyscrapers":


The Burj Khalifa in Dubai on the extreme right is 2723 feet tall.  Note how relatively modest the Eiffel Tower (built in 1889) is today at second from the left.  In 2020 the tenth tallest building will be in Vietnam and higher than 101 Taipei.  Click on this clip to view the beauty of these structures.  Oh, the #1 then will either be in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, both in the range of 3284 feet.

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The Dow Jones Industrials jumped up another 124 to 12,294, while world markets also mostly increased.  Gold dropped $3/toz to $1606, while the WTI crude is at $100/barrel and the Brent Spot at $108/barrel.

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