Viewpoint: New community center is on the horizon

In 1916, Kahului had a place called the Kahului Community House which was built by the Kahului Union Church for just under $800. It was located near the intersection of Puunene Avenue and what is now known as Kaahumanu Avenue.

Early issues of The Maui News made references to gatherings at the Kahului Community House that included outreach activities by churches, lectures, music performances and dances. Certainly, celebrations by community organizations and families also took place there.

In 1975, the existing Kahului Community Center was built. It has a capacity of 200 and the center has 30 parking stalls.

The community of Kahului is far too large for such a small community center. Kahului’s residential population increased by 31 percent in the 10-year span between 2000 and 2010 alone. The 2000 Census data reported 20,146 residents and, in 2010, that number increased to 26,337 residents. A growth of 6,191 residents in a 10-year period makes Kahului the fastest-growing district in our county.

Kahului’s mix of businesses, residential neighborhoods, schools, churches, nursing care homes, shopping centers and hotels, along with our island’s main airport, hospital and harbor, continues to make the district a hub for Maui.

With such a growing population, the demand for community centers and halls to use for gatherings also increases. The current one, with a capacity of 200 people, is far inadequate for family celebrations, meetings and other occasions in our expanding community. Over the years, many residents have voiced that Kahului needs a new community center.

I’m pleased to say that we are moving forward on achieving this.

With the support of my fellow council members, the fiscal year 2014 budget for the County of Maui, which was voted upon and passed at the June 6 council meeting, contained funding to begin the design and planning for a new community center. I submitted the request for $400,000 so that we can take a step toward fulfilling this long-desired community need. I’m grateful my fellow council members also agreed this project is long overdue and voted in favor of it.

The targeted site, currently owned by Alexander & Baldwin, is approximately 7 acres and will be deeded to the county as part of A&B’s fulfillment of a zoning condition related to the development of the Maui Business Park.

The parcel is adjacent to the planned Central Maui Regional Park and is expected to be able to accommodate a larger number of people than the existing Kahului Community Center, reflecting the growth in population, mixed uses and community programs within Kahului.

As we begin the planning and design stages for a new community center, I look forward to working with all members of the community to ensure that Kahului receives the best facility to meet its growing needs.

Just as our community’s families grow, so too must our gathering places. Bringing together people to celebrate important occasions, share traditional festivities and host valuable workshops and classes makes for a healthier and stronger community.

* Don S. Guzman holds the Maui County Counci’s Kahului residency seat.