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Fort Street Mall improving

by Casey Painter, staff writer


A decade-long decline of physical and social conditions on Fort Street Mall took a turn for the better with the formation of a Business Improvement District (BID), in September 2002.

Comprised of owners from 30 properties that front Fort Street Mall from Beretania Street to Nimitz Highway, the mission of the new BID is to return Fort Street Mall to its status as the center of commerce and trade in downtown Honolulu. Two of the ways it is doing so are its introduction of thrice-weekly open markets and its provision of chairs to local vendors.



With the City’s support, the BID lined up vendors of fresh produce, cut flowers, crafts and jewelry, specialty food items, and live entertainment, and last August, opened the Fort Street Mall Open Market.

“ Since we started the Open Market, the area has really lightened up,” said Chris Nakashima-Heise, president of BID, in a 2003 Honolulu Advertiser article. “The people who actually live and work in the area are beginning to use it again whereas they stayed away before.”

Daisy Kamiya, who participates in numerous open markets around town, said her downtown market stall does the best business. “We’d like to thank the Business Improvement District for having us,” Kamiya said. “Without them, we wouldn’t be here.”

Kamiya said that the BID provides security for her and her employees, and that the downtown markets are all very well planned. She added that they get most of their business from office workers.

Some students do use the open markets, saying the vegetables are cheaper and fresher than the grocery stores.

Siri Masterson said that the market place, along with all the live entertainment, improves the overall image of Fort Street Mall, but she added that she was not happy about the seating situation, referring to the continuing lack of benches on upper Fort Street Mall.

“ Fewer places to sit, same scene,” Masterson said, referring to the $100,000 cleanup the city undertook over a year ago when it removed all the public benches from Fort Street Mall between Hotel and Beretania streets, an area often used by the homeless.

Removal of the benches drew criticism from students, as well as providers of services to the homeless and businesses and residents concerned about elderly shoppers.

Carol Costa, spokeswoman for Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris’s office, said that moving the benches was an effort to try to get control of the safety and cleanliness of Fort Street Mall. The city restored some of the benches in July.

“ The city has been working very hard to upgrade Fort Street Mall and to upgrade the street furniture,” Costa said. Part of that upgrade includes the chairs and tables that have been made available to Fort Street Mall merchants.

City workers also regularly clean the entrances to the buildings and use a “green machine” on the mall itself, to remove leaves and other debris.

The Fort Street Mall BID will continue to make it a priority to keep the mall safe and clean, said Nakashima-Heise, and it will also continue efforts to provide events and activities for the community. Coming soon will be free Chi Gung morning exercise classes on the mall, and a Shave Ice Festival is planned for September’s Friday Open Markets.

In December, the BID will once again light up the entire mall and host a Christmas Craft Fair.
Costa also credits HPU: “Having a college environment in the core of your city keeps it very vibrant,” Costa said.



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