Bids for the demolition of the 51-year-old former Wailuku Post Office/Federal Building across the street from the Kalana O Maui building are being accepted.
The site will be turned into a temporary parking lot for county employees as the finishing touches are put on a "campus master plan" for county facilities in and around the county building in Wailuku, said Managing Director Keith Regan last week.
In that master plan being formulated in consultation with county departments and council members, the site at the corner of Wells and High streets has been "identified as a very good candidate for a medium-sized building that also would include parking," said Regan.
Bids for the demolition of the Wailuku Post Office/Federal Building are being accepted by Maui County. The building on the corner of High and Wells streets, across the street from the county building, has structural problems and hazardous building materials.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Once the site of the Wailuku Post Office and federal offices for the departments of Agriculture, Treasury and Health, Education and Welfare, and the Army and Navy, the building has been used by the county for storage from the mid-1990s, when the county began leasing the building. In 2009, the county bought the building.
It is currently in poor shape and has been fenced off from the public. There are issues with asbestos, lead, black mold, cracks in the foundation and water seepage and damage, said Regan.
An August 2010 study done by the Hawaii Inspection Group for the county also noted that the roof was nearing the end of its functional life; water and sprinkler supply lines were corroded, with control valves stuck; and the air-conditioning system, including ducts, needed to be replaced.
The county, during the Charmaine Tavares administration, had purchased the nearly 19,000-square-foot property in August 2009 for $1.5 million from Kalama Land Co., which had purchased the site for $750,000 in 2000, according to county records.
Published reports shortly before the county's purchase of the site indicated that the Tavares administration had planned to rehabilitate the building for use as an office building. Also factoring into the decision to buy the building was the cost of a 30-year lease for the building, entered into by the Linda Lingle administration in 1996, that had the county paying $60,000 a year.
The decision to raze the building was made in 2010, according to a Historic American Building Survey, funded by the county Planning Department.
The structural problems and the need to remove the hazardous materials and the cost of making the structure Americans with Disabilities Act compliant "really made it difficult to rehabilitate the building for regular use," said Regan.
Black mold, "which is extremely hard to get rid of," found growing in the basement due to water leakage was a major concern as well, he said. "Do we want to put our employees in a situation where they might have issues with mold?" he said county officials asked.
Instead of spending $3 million to $4 million to bring the building "up to some sort of standard where an employee could work there," the county decided to demolish the building and prepare the site for a future facility, Regan said.
The cost to demolish the building is estimated at "a little less than a million" dollars, said Regan. The bid includes the demolition, removal and disposal of the building, its foundation and other materials. The deadline for bids is Dec. 12. The work is expected to begin in March with the contractor having six months to complete the job, he said.
The site will be paved over with a cheap, recycled asphalt material, which lends itself well for temporary parking, said Regan. The parking is badly needed, he said, noting that the county is "very, very short" of spaces.
Some employees have to run out to move their cars every two hours from their street parking spaces, if they can find street parking, he said.
"That's very inefficient," he said.
The county master plan for its facilities around the county building is about efficiency and cost, Regan said.
He noted that the county has offices in One Main Plaza and the David Trask Building near the county building. Parts of departments are split up in the county building and the leased facilities.
Walking from building to building for business takes time, meaning "you gain efficiency through proximity," he said.
"What we are trying to create is an asset for the future . . . instead of paying someone else's mortgage," Regan said.
The rough estimate of the cost of the proposed master plan still in the making is $30 million to $40 million, but the debt service would be less than the current cost of rent for the county, he said.
"It makes total sense to move over to this plan," he said.
The area covered in the master plan includes the county building, Kalana Pakui annex, the old post office site, county building parking areas and possible land acquisition below the Kalana Pakui parking lot, Regan said.
He said that it is "more than likely" that the plan will be unveiled to the County Council in January.
He called the master plan an investment in the future that would meet the county's needs for decades. It is also a "commitment to the Wailuku community," which serves as the county seat, he said.
For many years, county workers had only to walk across Wells Street to take care of their mailings. The old Post Office/Federal Building had replaced an overburdened, inadequate Wailuku Post Office on Main Street. It took local officials 25 years to secure the funds from the federal government to relocate the Wailuku Post Office to more suitable quarters, said the historic building survey report.
Ground was broken on Sept. 12, 1959, on the post office, reported to cost $639,529 to build. Construction was completed in late December 1960 and the facility was dedicated on Jan. 21, 1961. It was the hub of postal and federal government activity in Wailuku until 1990, when the post office was replaced by a new facility in the Millyard, the report said.
The old post office building was designed by a Honolulu architectural firm, whose principals were Robert Law and James B. Wilson.
Their building design was in keeping with the "modern movement" of architecture of the post-World War II era. The building consists of rectangular volumes, cantilevered building extensions, smooth surfaces and the use of concrete, stone, glass and metals as well as "new building materials" made with "mechanized mass production methods," the report said.
Regan said that the plan is to save features, such as the eagle emblem on the side of the building, and incorporate them into the new building to show respect for the building that was there.
* Lee Imada can be reached at email@example.com.