Health facility planned for the heart of Lanai

The Lanai Community Health Center is planning to build a new $7 million facility in the heart of Lanai by the end of the year, officials said.

“It’s been a dream to get this facility built,” Executive Director Diana Shaw said in a phone interview Thursday. “It’ll be close to town and close to the school and the seniors, so it’s within a walkable distance.

“Oh, and it’s a lot larger.”

The facility will be 6,800 square feet – far bigger than the center’s current 1,000-square-foot building, which is a converted house on Lauhala Place.

The center aims to secure 25,068 square feet of land on Sixth Street within more than 42,000 square feet of surrounding property, which includes the Lanai Art Center and the island’s University of Hawaii Maui College facilities.

The one-story facility will have medical examination rooms, consultation rooms, clinical laboratories, specialty exam rooms and administration support offices. The space will also include a multipurpose room to hold joint programs with the art center, flu clinics and other health education activities.

The 501(c)3 nonprofit organization has provided clinical services since 2008 and has had its eyes on the location, but because of a lengthy subdivision process and three dormitories occupying the space, “it has taken us two years to this point,” Shaw said.

“Two of the dorms have been boarded up for years,” she said. “The other dorm is one-fourth used by our administration office and three-fourths used as an activity room for the arts center.”

Considering the new facility will have a room for programs with the art center, Shaw said the community would be better served if the dorms were removed.

She also estimates that the facility’s staff of about 15 full-time workers and six to eight part-time workers, will double after construction and create jobs for Lanai residents.

“Of course we have to find people, but that’s a whole other project,” she said.

Problems with the current health center, which serves about one-third of the island’s population of about 3,100, include its small size and undesirable location.

“It’s a pretty steep climb,” she said of the building located in an area known as “Haole Hill.”

“Your average elderly person can’t make that. It’s a beautiful and serene area tucked behind trees, but as far as walkability goes it’s tough,” she said.

If the new facility is built, the old building would be used for services such as birth control and other private health matters. The space would also be used for workforce development, peer education programs and physical therapy.

“But it’s going to come down to whether we can afford to keep it,” she said.

Although the center has received money from state and federal grant programs, it is still short by $5 million. The center was approved for an additional $500,000 through the state grant-in-aid program – federal funds given to state or county government to subsidize a public project – but could potentially receive $3 million from the New Market Tax Credit Program.

The federal program, which encourages development of low-income communities throughout the United States, could award the money if the center can raise $2 million from community support.

Efforts to reach Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison, who bought 98 percent of Lanai last year, for funding have not been successful, and the center is planning on sending a formal letter to his office.

“But this campaign is actually a worldwide campaign,” Shaw said of the effort to fund the $7 million budget that includes the cost of design (Architects Hawaii Ltd.), permits, land purchase and construction.

The center has raised about $125,000 from local businesses and the community, but it is hoping to broaden its reach by using social media and an online fundraising page on a website called Indiegogo.

“We’re really reaching out to a wider world,” she said. “This island is kind of like a world of have and have-nots. You have a small number of wealthy people with vacation homes here, but a vast majority of the individuals are struggling to make a living so we have to look elsewhere.

“We’re looking to find people that have any ties with Lanai and say, ‘If you really care about health care and seeing it done right, how about helping out this community?’ ” she said.

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at