Kapalama offices to move from City Square — Driver licensing and the satellite city hall will go to the old Sprint building

(Via Star Advertiser)

The city will relocate its bustling Kapalama satellite city hall and driver licensing offices at City Square this fall to the former Sprint building several blocks away on Dillingham Boulevard, city administration officials confirmed Wednesday.

Those offices will also be joined by most divisions of the city Department of Community Services as well as the city Ethics Commission at the building, 925 Dillingham Blvd., in what is being renamed Kapalama Hale.

Also set to move into the two-story 61,896-square-foot space are the Neighborhood Commission, the health branch of the Department of Emergency Services, and a yet-to-be-determined section of the Honolulu Police Department, said Robert Kroning, the city director of design and construction.

The goal is to relocate the City Square offices by Sept. 30 but the timetable for moving the other agencies is fluid, Kroning said.

The city and RCK Partners, which owns City Square, agreed that the city would not stay at the former Kapalama Gem store location beyond its current lease, which ends this summer.

Glenn Kaya, RCK managing partner, said the city asked that it be allowed to stay through October until the city’s new location could be up and running.

At City Square since 1996, the driver licensing office takes up about 12,000 square feet while the satellite city hall operates out of 2,500 square feet, Kaya said.

Shari Kajiwara, who heads the Department of Customer Services, which oversees satellite city hall, driver licensing and motor vehicle registration functions, said the new location will join the two City Square offices along with a largely “back of the house” vehicle registration operation that will be relocated from the Chinatown Gateway building.

The city will be leasing the Kapalama Hale site the first two years and then has an option to purchase the site in the third, fourth or fifth year, an option the city intends to exercise, Kroning said.

While the lease for the entire Kapalama Hale site will be about $154,000 a month — about $40,000 a month more than the combined lease costs of the offices relocating there — purchasing of the property would allow the city to recoup that difference in seven years and then, in the long run, save money from no longer renting, Kroning said.

“Eventually, this should save us some money and we’re consolidating the offices to a much nicer site,” he said.

Kajiwara said the move comes at a good time because she is working with the city Department of Information Technology to upgrade operations for driver licensing and vehicle registration, including the possibility of setting up self-help kiosks for people seeking renewals.

“It will be a better public experience,” Kajiwara said.

People at the driver licensing office and elsewhere at City Square told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that parking as a problem at the shopping center, especially around lunchtime.

Bernard Nunies, a Fort Shafter resident who was accompanying a friend taking a driver’s license road test, said he makes it a point to visit the city offices only in the late afternoon, when it’s least congested. Nunies said he’s worried there won’t enough customer parking at the new site.

Kalihi resident Lorna Joseph, who shops for vegetables about twice a month at the bustling Chinatown Marketplace, situated on the other side of the driver licensing office, said she hopes the parking situation for both the city operations and the City Square merchants will improve when the government offices relocate.

Kroning said the 212 stalls at Kapalama Hale should be able to at least accommodate customers. The city is eyeing parking at privately owned neighboring lots to see whether they can fit the needs of Kapalama Hale employees, he said. “I think it will be a better situation.”

RCK’s Kaya said parking congestion and incompatibility with other tenants at City Square are key reasons for the relocation.

RCK opened its Chinatown Marketplace, seeking to replicate the produce, fresh meat and fresh fish stalls found in Chinatown, in November 2013. The venue has proved wildly successful and the existing city offices are expected to allow for an expansion of the marketplace, he said.

People getting driver licenses or other city services often compete with customers of Chinatown Marketplace and City Square’s many eateries for the roughly 400 parking stalls in the lot, Kaya said.

“The city’s (DMV) and satellite city hall have been good tenants for 18 years,” Kaya said. “But with the rail station kitty-corner from our main building, I’m concerned about the already congested parking problems. And the city’s moving would alleviate some of the parking problems.”

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