That New Neighborhood Vibe

Kaka’ako, once a bustling area for fishing and salt harvesting, is now an experiment in urban island culture.  Creative spaces for delectable dining and tipples are popping up on the regular, like Hank’s Haute Dogs (oh, lobster dog, you will be mine!), the collaborative culinary community at Taste, and the authentic NY hipster joint, Bevy (happy hour $1 oysters?  Oh, yes indeed.).  Amidst the warehouses, auto shops, and old school mom and pop shops, Kaka’ako’s future iteration is gaining momentum, heading toward (what I hope will be) a green, walkable, long-term sustainable ‘hood, supporting local talent and business.

A Burgeoning Kaka’ako

On Friday, I walked past a brand new integrative healing center that just opened up a half a block from my apartment.  Offering tea ceremony, ikebana lessons, yoga and the Okada Method, The Mokichi Okada Association will bring much needed nourishment to the populous elderly community here in Kaka’ako. The tea room is stunning and the welcome is warm, I highly recommend checking it out.

When there’s huli-huli chicken smoke in the air, you know something good is going down.  Saturday marked the opening of Kaka’ako’s farmer’s market – woo hoo!  I arrived at opening hour, around 8:00 a.m., and already the stalls were heaving with little old ladies, small families, and a few of us solo-shoppers.  Most vendors I spoke to were from the North Shore and Waianae – and everything I’ve eaten so far has been divine.  Check out some of the photos below for a visual breakdown!

Art galleries and nonprofits, a bike shop, a dope new ‘hood magazine, it seems like Kaka’ako can do no wrong.  Then again, the prospect of multiple high-rise condominiums looms with an ominous tone.  What kind of traffic will all those new residents bring?  Will the housing be made *reasonably* affordable?  And though this may be more of an island-wide concern, what can we do to help the homeless sprinkled about our quiet urban petri dish?  Building a new neighborhood, especially in Hawaii, is no simple endeavor.

Despite the challenges ahead, I see Kaka’ako as a prime opportunity to create a real ‘hood community in Hawaii, the kind of space that may play a vital role in encouraging reverse brain drain.  So many of Hawaii’s talented individuals leave the islands, never to return, many because they don’t see a place for themselves back on ‘the rock.’  Most of the island is based on a car-culture, which, though convenient for big families, has been proven to be socially isolating, detrimental to physical health, and inherently oil-dependent.

Some of the more frustrating aspects to island life are the slow pace and resistance to change.  Having just returned home, I hesitate to make grand broad statements about what “should be” (like the rail, more bike lanes, world peace, etc.)   But this is an exciting time for Honolulu, most especially if residents and developers alike can approach the evolution of Kaka’ako with transparency, vision, and a commitment to community.

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