Mpact LAB: Keeping Kalihi Kalihi

April 17, 2024

Kalihi Summit. People talking in room. Credit Hitachi Rail Honolulu

With stations coming as part of an extension of Honolulu’s Skyline rail system, Move Oahu Forward, a coalition of Hawaii business and community leaders, worked with Mpact:LAB to convene local stakeholders in Kalihi, with the goal of ensuring that the changes that are coming benefit current residents.

Located along the port in a semi-industrial area of the island of O’ahu, Honolulu’s Kalihi neighborhood has long been a safe landing spot for new immigrants and an affordable place to locate a family or a small business. Currently served by bus, Kahili will be served by four stations planned for the Skyline rail extension in Kalihi. With these new stations, refreshed interest in development.

Kalihi Summit map of Kalihi TOD locations Credit Hitachi Rail Honolulu
Kalihi Summit map focused on TOD. Credit Hitachi Rail Honolulu

Mpact:LAB worked with Move Oahu Forward to plan and carry out a two-day Kalihi Summit. Participants, ranging from elected officials to lifelong Kalihi residents, from transit agency and city staff to local businesses and developers, experienced a whirlwind of high- energy activities. Elected officials delivered welcome remarks, then Skyrail and government officials shared plans for future station areas and related development.

Half the room was whisked away for a bus tour of Kalihi, featuring the Kapalama Canal Project, Kalihi Transit Center, and the Kamehameha Schools’ vision for Dillingham Plaza redevelopment. Meanwhile, the other half of the room rotated through four immersive table conversations hosted by ten organizations. After lunch, everyone switched places, then reconvened for a candid large group debrief and reflection.

Kalihi Summit. Smiling faces on bus. Credit Hitachi Rail Honolulu
Photo credit: Hitachi Rail Honolulu
Kalihi Summit. People talking in room. Credit Hitachi Rail Honolulu
Photo credit: Hitachi Rail Honolulu

One by one, people shared stories about growing up in Kalihi, about making sure Kalihi remains a place where people can get a first foothold, about the ecosystem of decision makers and community members around these tables and the critical importance of staying connected, with ongoing information sharing and dialogue. Everyone celebrated the end of the first day with cold juice and an array of appetizers from a neighborhood eatery.

Participants returned on Day 2 ready to dig in. They organized themselves into four workgroups to galvanize connections and identify what success looks like. Together, they built a 7-year timeline.

Over the course of these two full and lively days, stakeholders together set forth a vision for transit-oriented development (TOD) in Kalihi. They committed to cross-coordination and collaboration and to making the four coming station areas a shining example of what transit-oriented development (TOD) can look like and how it can be done along the entire Skyrail corridor.

“Kalihi is a hidden treasure and prides itself on being a unique diamond in the rough.  It is quite possibly the most diverse community on the island of Oʻahu in terms of both culture and development.  I was overwhelmed by the hope our longtime Kalihi residents and businesses have for a better future, that they dare to dream big for a Kalihi that has all the elements of an amazing place to live, work, and play, but want to sustain all the magic that makes Kalihi undeniably Kalihi.”

– Jon Y. Nouchi, Deputy Director, Department of Transportation Services, City and County of Honolulu


“It was a wonderful gathering with a host of diverse attendees representing community, business, and government.  With Skyline in operation and heading to Kalihi in 2031, there is a lot of work to be done.  We will focus on helping to organize and prioritize the work so the infrastructure investments are lining up with the projects most ready to go, while at the same time supporting the community networks so they are at the table and their voices are heard.   The comment from the Summit that sticks with me is: ‘We in Kalihi want to be a destination, and not just a place where people drive thru on the way to someplace else.’  We have our marching orders!”

– Jennifer Sabas, Executive Director, Move Oahu Forward

Purple MPACT squiggle


If you’re interested in gathering stakeholders in advance of a transit expansion,
contact Sarah Rudolf

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