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Kakaʻako is the name of a commercial and retail district of Honolulu, Hawaiʻi between Ala Moana near Waikīkī to the east and downtown Honolulu and Honolulu Harbor to the west. Kakaʻako is situated along the southern shores of the island of Oʻahu, Hawaii.
Kakaʻako was once a thriving Native Hawaiian community with agricultural terraces where Hawaiian royalty once lived. Kamehameha I had a residence with his family and personal kahuna and chief adviser Hewahewa. Hawaiians used the region for fishpond farming, salt making, wetland agriculture and human burials, according to Cultural Surveys Hawaii, which did several reports on the area.
Through recent development projects many locations have unearthed ancient Hawaiian burials (iwi) thought to be scattered throughout the district. One area in particular, the Honuakaha Smallpox Cemetery, has more than a thousand Iwi.
In 1976, Kakaako was an industrial district under city control. It got caught in a political feud between then-Mayor Frank Fasi and then-Gov. George Ariyoshi. Hawaii lawmakers founded Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) in April 1976 as a way to prevent Fasi from using Kakaako as political leverage against Ariyoshi. The agency produced editorial opposition from local papers.
The civic centers of Kakaʻako are Victoria Ward Centers and the Neal S. Blaisdell Center. On the ocean side is the campus of the John A. Burns School of Medicine. The main roads through Kakaʻako are Ala Moana Boulevard and Kapiʻolani Boulevard. In recent years, the area has been diversifying by adding more residential development.
HCDA is planning for up to 30 new buildings to be constructed in the area. The plans have produced protests by residents. HCDA rules allow buildings up to 400 feet high. Kakaako's proposed transit-oriented development plan would permit some towers to reach 700 feet, twice as high as the city’s building height limit.
Developers can skip the Hawaii Land Use Commission and Honolulu City Council. HCDA staff reviews proposals and its governor-appointed board has approval authority. In 2005, opposition group "Save Our Kakaako Coalition" protested Alexander & Baldwin's plans to build waterfront residential towers known as Kakaako Makai, leading the Legislature to effectively kill the project.