New building will provide a unified campus for Imua

Despite construction being delayed a couple months due to a building fire in July, Imua Family Services will break ground on its new Kahului headquarters Tuesday.

“It’s a huge accomplishment for Imua, and the result of an extraordinary partnership (with Easter Seals) and a lot of support from the community,” said Dean Wong, executive director of Imua Family Services. Easter Seals Hawaii, which owns the land, has entered into a partnership with Imua to create a unified Maui campus that will provide assistance to people with special needs from early childhood through adulthood.

An early-morning fire at the 10,800-square-foot metal building was reported July 22, causing an estimated $1 million in damage. While authorities never identified the cause of the fire, Wong suspects it had started from “a little hibachi grill” that may have been left by homeless people who had sought shelter in the abandoned building.

Luckily, Wong said, the damage caused by the fire was covered by insurance on the building, and “we were going to demolish it anyway.”

While the groundbreaking ceremony was originally planned for September, having to go through fire inspections and wait for assessments from insurance companies delayed construction by two months, but things could’ve been much worse, Wong said.

“It would’ve been worse had we started (construction) and then there had been a fire. That would’ve been a setback,” Wong said. “It’s nice to see all these things come together and finally break ground on what we know is going to be one of the most incredible facilities Maui has ever seen in relationship to early childhood.”

The proposed two-story building includes three state-of-the-art therapy rooms equipped with observation windows, a parent/toddler group therapy center, an inclusive preschool for up to 24 special-needs children ages 3 to 6, a large conference room and special-needs classroom with attached service kitchen, administrative offices and an outdoor playground that will be in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

The 10,000-square-foot facility will cost about $1.9 million to complete, and construction is expected to take between six and eight months. So far, the organization has raised about $1.6 million for the new facility, with about $300,000 left to be raised in its capital campaign.

Wong said that Imua plans to move its offices to the new headquarters in September.

“Maui’s continually growing population, increasing rates of diagnosed autism and new innovative therapeutic programs necessitate a larger, more modern facility for Imua’s beneficiaries,” Wong said. The organization had been leasing space at the Cameron Center in Wailuku since 1973 and, before that, operated out of a small wood-frame cottage behind the old Kaunoa School in Spreckelsville since it began operations in 1947.

Imua, the principal provider of family support services for special-needs children in Maui County, has served more than 100,000 children and their families on the islands of Maui and Lanai since 1947.

On Tuesday, Imua will also be launching its free mobile application, the first of its kind in the state, which will offer parenting and early-childhood development advice, interactive blogs with a certified therapist, photo galleries, calendar events and other helpful information for families with special-needs children. The app may be downloaded by searching “Imua Family Services” in iTunes.

The public is welcome to attend the groundbreaking ceremony at 10 a.m. Tuesday at 161 S. Wakea Ave.

* Eileen Chao can be reached at