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Kahului project would include housing and civic center

State also wants to develop building in Wailuku to add office space

The property proposed for the Kahului Civic Center fronts Kaahumanu Avenue and features a rock wall built in 1939 by the WPA. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

A state agency is looking to transform the lot across from the Maui Beach Hotel into a civic center with affordable housing units, a community center, government offices and the potential new home of the Kahului Public Library.

The Kahului Civic Center Mixed-Use Complex would be located at 153 West Kaahumanu Ave. on about 5.6 acres, including the 0.85 acres dedicated for the new Maui County bus hub, according to the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation.

It would consist of 150 to 300 affordable housing units; about 38,000 square feet of office space for the state Department of Accounting and General Services, 7,000 square feet for an adult school and supporting space for the state Department of Education, an estimated 6,000 square feet for a community center, about 5,000 square feet for a commercial building, and parking. There would also be 16,000 square feet for the possible relocation of the Kahului library.

Dean Minakami, HHFDC development branch chief, said that the affordable housing units will be available for households earning no more than 60 percent of the area median income.

“So we’re hopeful that the housing that’s supposed to be part of the Kahului project will address this shortfall,” Minakami said during a virtual public meeting on Thursday night that drew about 30 viewers, including county and state representatives.

The building housing the McKinley Community School for Adults is one of the buildings scheduled for demolition for the proposed Kahului Civic Center. This photo was taken Saturday.

HHFDC is seeking public input for the Kahului Civic Center as well as a state office building in Wailuku that Minakami said would help fill the need for more office space.

The 74,000-square-foot Wailuku State Office Building 3 project, planned for 70 South High St., consists of an office building for DAGS and parking. The Wailuku State Office Building’s allowable height is 144 feet.

“These projects are being proposed to address the shortage of state office space in the Wailuku-Kahului area and address the need for more affordable housing on Maui,” Minakami said. “The Department of Accounting and General Services anticipates that the state will need more than 80,000 square feet of office space in the coming years, and the two civic centers will ensure that space is available for state services and also provide employment opportunities for Maui residents.”

HHFDC Housing Information Specialist Kent Miyasaki told The Maui News last week via email that the goal of the Kahului Civic Center project is to also support Maui County’s “push of transit-oriented developments as it will be a mixed-use project that is pedestrian friendly and supports alternate modes of transportation besides the automobile.”

Construction for the project is slated to be completed by 2026, depending on the availability of funding, with the environmental assessment done by the end of this year. After that, HHFDC will put out a bid for a project developer.

The area currently consists of a one-story building for the DOE’s McKinley Community School for Adults, which would be demolished; a one-story lawnmower maintenance building, also to be demolished; a one-story collapsed building; and a parking lot with 21 parking spaces.

The project site is bordered by the Maui Beach Hotel, Queen Ka’ahumanu Center, the Waterfront Apartments at Kahului and Kahului Lani, an affordable senior housing complex.

Having preliminary discussions and public input will help to “create a framework for the future investments and improvements of this area,” said Rene Matsumura, an associate principal architect for G70.

Matsumura said that developers and designers want to focus on transit-orientated development to promote a pedestrian friendly environment, good transit services and parking, access to public amenities and to “reduce the dependency on personal vehicles.”

During a virtual poll Thursday night, the majority of respondents on Zoom voted for the project to emphasize pedestrian connectivity throughout the site area. They also wanted the project to have sufficient parking and mixed uses, such as small shops, parks and housing.

“If this becomes a walkable community, that creates a great sense of place in terms of, you know, in the afternoon, you’re getting your lunch and you sit under a tree or going and having your lunch outdoors and just enjoying the view that you have,” said Maui County Council Member Tasha Kama, who holds the Kahului residency seat. “To me, this breathes life into our community, it breathes life into Kahului.

“It will be an active, bustling and thriving community, and I think that’s what we’re trying to establish without having cars going up and down.”

Kama’s executive assistant, Evan Dust, who also has more than 40 years of experience as a transportation planner, said that HHFDC needs to better define what “sufficient parking” means and to take into consideration the walking distances for the pedestrians.

“You want greater connectivity through the site, which is natural because the blocks in that area of Kahului have been assembled into super blocks, so there’s a lot of walking distance,” Dust said. “But you also have the problem that adjacent parcels are developed and preclude you from providing those connections without some sort of negotiation with those property owners.”

Marc Takamori, director of the county Department of Transportation, which oversees the Maui Bus system, noted that the department’s focus is to make transit “a little more convenient,” though it can be costly.

“What makes it tough for us, we’re an urban and very rural community, is that we don’t have the frequency like Oahu,” Takamori said. “Catching the bus on Maui is not convenient unless it truly works for you. I think that’s why most people still need a vehicle to get to where they need to go.”

Pam Eaton, long range division chief for the county Department of Planning, said that the project meets the county’s current vision for the area. But Eaton, who’s also the project manager for the Kaahumanu Avenue Community Corridor for the Hawaii Interagency Council for Transit-Oriented Development, encouraged HHFDC to gather more public input by getting the word out and hosting more meetings.

The next public meeting is set for sometime in the spring.

To provide input on the preliminary report, email HHFDCoutreach@g70.design. A presentation on the project will also be available on HHFDC’s website at arcg.is/1jHO5e.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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