Banyan bills introduced: Options on table to revitalize area

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald file photo Hilo Bayfront Trails project organizer and president Peter Kubota participates in public testimony during a Banyan Drive Hawaii Redevelopment Agency meeting in 2016.

Lawmakers will have several options to consider during the current session of the state Legislature for revitalizing Hilo’s Banyan Drive.

The legislation aims to either support Hawaii County’s redevelopment district for the area, also known as the Waiakea Peninsula, to set guidelines for state-led redevelopment districts, or provide other options for the county to fund improvements.


The county formed a redevelopment district in 2016 under the state’s urban renewal law, but those efforts have stalled as it awaits support from the state, which owns most of the land. Legislation intended to support redevelopment in the area failed to pass last year.

Sen. Kai Kahele, who signed his name to the three versions, said he prefers letting the county take the lead, with financial help from the state.

“It’s like the ultimate home rule agency,” he said, regarding the county’s redevelopment district, which includes a volunteer board.

But Kahele, D-Hilo, said he hopes presenting the options will increase the chances of a bill passing.

“I’m trying to put out the buffet and see what we can get,” he said. “We need to bring home the bacon for Hilo in 2018.”

One piece of legislation, Senate Bill 2972, would divert 25 percent of revenue the state gets from its land leases in the area to support the county’s redevelopment efforts. The state also would contribute $250,000 to craft a master plan if the county matches it, Kahele said.

The board of the county’s redevelopment district approved a conceptual development plan in October 2016, but crafting a master plan and environmental impact statement to see it through is expected to be costly. At the redevelopment board’s last meeting in November, county Deputy Planning Director Daryn Arai estimated that would cost at least $500,000 and take two years to complete.

During the meeting, board chairman Brian De Lima suggested they bite off a smaller piece and apply the concept to properties with leases nearing expiration. He said there would not need to be an EIS if the building’s footprint remained the same.

“All I’m trying to do is think a little bit out of the box to facilitate investment,” De Lima said then. “Now, we’re not of any help.”

He didn’t return a phone call Thursday seeking comment by deadline.

House Bill 2641 and SB 3058 follow a different route.

They outline a process for state-led redevelopment districts for public lands. Members of the redevelopment districts would be appointed by the governor, with the chairperson of the board and Land and Natural Resources and a county planning director serving as ex-officio members.

The bills also would allow land leases for hotels and other uses to be extended if the lessee makes substantial improvements.


Another bill, SB 3057, would allow counties to use “land-based financing” to support developments within improvement districts. That includes an unspecified property tax assessment.

Email Tom Callis at

  1. Poi January 26, 2018 2:59 am

    The mixed metaphor salad and bacon buffet’s on Kai. You know you can’t “revitalize” something that was never “vitalized” to begin with. If we could permanently reverse the tradewind flow, maybe…

    1. Kia January 26, 2018 6:26 am

      Banyan WAS the hot spot years back but was never kept up. Not sure what is meant by “reversing the trade wind flow”. The trade winds are our mana and what brings our area life and beauty.

      1. Poi January 26, 2018 2:26 pm

        You never noticed how all the “happening” resorts are all on the other side of the island? The dry side? You’re saying folks in Kona don’t have mana??

  2. ghummer57 January 26, 2018 6:10 am

    This area has so much potential, we could make it one of the most beautiful areas in the state. Yes it will take time and lots of money, but the potential revenue it would generate would make it all worth while. Not to mention increased employment opportunities for our side of the island.

    1. Kia January 26, 2018 6:31 am

      Exactly!!!! Ageed.

  3. Kia January 26, 2018 6:31 am

    Please move forward! Such an incredible area. The Naniloa has made the first move and it it so nice to see. Banyan is the key to Hilo, time to unlock the potential. Tear down those hideous old hotel/apartments and lets move on.

    1. Steve Dearing January 26, 2018 3:33 pm


      1. Leroy January 26, 2018 7:38 pm

        Is that u and ur wife in the background of the photo…looking all happy…they look like demorats

  4. daH January 26, 2018 6:36 am

    If the dramatic increase in tour helicopters flights all over Hilo, and especially over this area aren’t curtailed, it won’t matter what they do. The last time I stayed at the Hilo Hawaiian, with it’s INCREDIBLE view, there were SO MANY helicopters flying by, my wife and I couldn’t enjoy the deck until nighttime! When is Hilo going to wake up to the fact that flying deafening helicopters all over the area is destroying it? They can fly higher and off-shore, but they don’t have to, so they don’t. And, County & State & Fed. Gov’t officials are lobbied to ignore it. It gets worse every year, it’s so sad. Hilo is committing suicide…

  5. Sundog January 26, 2018 9:48 am

    Okay. Who’s willing to risk spending money in the tidal wave zone ?

  6. Benny HaHa January 26, 2018 10:12 am

    Sounds like it’s all about whose pocket should we pick to get this done. Why does this need to be a government/taxpayer project? Get out of the way, government. Let the free market make these improvements. Government has to focus on the FEW things it can do competently, if there are any.

  7. thebamboo January 26, 2018 10:03 pm

    Yes to SB2972…
    More for Hawaii County.

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