HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) — As part of efforts to revitalize Chinatown, Mayor Rick Blangiardi and his team took to the streets Tuesday to see firsthand what needs improvement.
The tour began at South Pauahi Street and Fort Street Mall as Blangiardi and members of his Infrastructure, Housing and Homelessness Committees made their way into the heart of the neighborhood.
It was Blangiardi’s second official run in the area. What remains clear is that redesigning Chinatown is not an overnight solution.
“We know we have a criminal element down here,” Blangiardi said.
“We’re dealing with the police, the prosecutor’s office. We need to deal with drug use and the illegal sale of drugs. We have homelessness problems.”
To address these concerns, the Honolulu Police Department increased its presence in the area, and the city also increased the Weed and Seed program.
Another top priority for the city government is the revitalization of nearby community parks such as A’ala Park and the basketball courts at Smith Street and Beretania Street.
“We want people to come here and our experience has been that when we have people activating one area, other elements are crowded out,” Blangiardi said. “It’s one of the things we want to do in a very natural way. We want people to feel comfortable here.”
Chinatown resident Sandra Pohl knows the area has the potential to be safe and vibrant in the long term.
As executive director of the Downtown Art Center, she also believes the creative community can play a critical role in leading the neighborhood’s transformation.
“If the mayor says it’s safe, if the police say it’s safer, then people will come and visit,” Pohl said. “It’s about bringing people to the city because there’s a reason to come to the city, and that’s why the art galleries are trying to do that.”
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