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$41M homestead project envisions centers for culture, food, education

Multipurpose hale with 200-seat amphitheater would be economic driver of project

A map shows the location of homestead land where the Keokea Homestead Farm Lots Association hopes to build a multipurpose hale for community events, a cultural education center, native food and medicinal plant gardens, a kupuna and keiki day care complex and Hawaiian immersion schools.

A $41 million project that would build space for education, community events, business and culture is being proposed under the Keokea Homestead Farm Lots Association’s master plan.

The roughly 69-acre site would be home to a cultural education center, native food and medicinal plant gardens, a 3,500-square-foot child and senior care complex, a 5,000-square-foot multipurpose community center complex and an amphitheater, local small business and food venue, Hawaiian immersion schools, as well as native forest restoration efforts, according to a draft environmental assessment published in the state Office of Planning and Sustainable Development’s Environmental Notice last week.

Owned by the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, the project site is within the Keokea Homestead Farm Lots subdivision and is bordered by DHHL farm lots and homes to the north; Grandma’s Coffee Shop and Henry Fong General Store to the east; Keokea agricultural lots and Haleakala Ranch lands to the west; and Kula Highway, Thompson Road, Keokea Place and Kula Hospital to the south.

The land is mostly vacant besides the occasional use for community events, such as the Keokea Hawaiian Homestead Ho’olaule’a and Farmers Market, which was held on Sundays prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Facilities envisioned in the association’s master plan aim to bring together elements of culture and education, as well as community services that may not be easily accessible to Keokea residents.

The 3,500-square-foot multipurpose hale with an additional 200-seat amphitheater and associated 81-stall parking lot would be the main economic driver of the project. The space would be used by various organizations and community groups to host social services, craft fairs or other events, as well as an emergency evacuation center. The amphitheater would be used for concerts, performances and cultural events and activities like hula.

The proposed cultural educational center, meanwhile, would include the Malalani Garden, which would feature a mala and lo’i for educational tours. The space is envisioned to have walkable areas as well as places for hosting classes for the general public to learn more about native plants and traditional landscaping and cultural traditions.

Because kupuna day care is currently “unavailable or underserved” in the Keokea region, developers also plan to construct a 3,500-square-foot facility to eventually serve 40 to 50 seniors. It would be located near educational facilities to help connect kupuna with keiki.

Plans include a preschool-to-kindergarten-level Hawaiian immersion school. The 4,450-square-foot building and 2,250-square-foot play area would be adjacent to the kupuna day care facilities “to allow for an intergenerational learning and care environment.”

A grades K-6 immersion school would feature class size for about 15 to 30 students with 18,000 square feet of building space and 7,000 square feet of outdoor play space — this outdoor play space would be adjacent to the other preschool outdoor play area to complete the educational center of the master plan.

Vehicle and pedestrian access would be from Ka’amana Street and off Kula Highway. Two points of access are anticipated, one being near the existing intersection, and the second farther makai, which will be a one way in for day care and school drop-off.

“As a long time supporter of the Keokea Homestead community, I am so happy to see that their vision for their community is finally gaining ground!!” Maui resident Blossom Feiteira wrote in a support letter included in the draft environmental assessment. “I believe that the plan they have envisioned will provide the much needed economic engine for this community to succeed in their endeavors.”

While the project is anticipated to have an overall positive cultural, social, health and economic impact on the homestead community, some agencies have made suggestions to prevent any adverse effects caused by the project, such as stormwater impacts or erosion, and to ensure water sources for the project.

The Maui County Department of Planning said that the “mix of uses in such a remote area will be well-appreciated by the Upcountry area residents,” but pointed out that water sources are “a major concern” in the Upcountry area, according to the draft assessment.

Although the DHHL development in Maui County is exempt from the water availability code (also known as the “show me the water” law that requires developers to prove they have adequate water sources for a project), the Planning Department is still recommending that they consult with the county Department of Water Supply as the project progresses.

The project also will need an individual wastewater system permit approved by the state Department of Health to ensure the septic tanks and leach field systems have adequate capacity, according to the draft assessment.

The entire project would be done in phases based on the availability of funding. Total construction costs are estimated at $41.2 million, including about $10.4 million for the grades K-6 school, $8.7 million for a healing center, $8.5 million for the kupuna and pre-K complex, $8 million for the multipurpose hale and amphitheater and nearly $5.6 million for the Mahalani Garden and food truck area.

DHHL’s Kula lands cover nearly 6,112 acres on the slopes of Haleakala, including three homestead areas under development: the Kula Residence Lots subdivision, the Waiohuli Undivided Interest subdivision and the Keokea Farm Lots.

“Together, these areas include about 800 homestead lots,” according to the report. “With adequate water and funding, this area has the potential to be the largest homestead region on Maui.”

Comments on the project are due by May 23 and can be sent to the approving agency, DHHL, via email to julieann.cachola@hawaii.gov, by phone at (808) 779-5084 or by mail at P.O. Box 1879, Honolulu, HI 96805. Commenters should also copy the applicant and consultant.Applicant Keokea Homestead Farm Lots Association can be reached by mail at 1245 Keanuhea Pl., Kula, HI 96790, c/o: Alika and Pi’ilani Akana; by phone at (808) 378-6810; or by email at alikaakana@yahoo.com.

Consultant PBR HAWAII & Associates Inc. can be reached by mail at 1001 Bishop St., Suite 650, Honolulu, HI 96813; by phone at (808) 521-5631; or by email at vshigekuni@pbrhawaii.com.

To view the full draft environmental assessment, visit files.hawaii.gov/dbedt/erp/Doc_Library/2022-04-23-MADEA-Keokea-Homestead-Farm-Lots-Association-Master-Plan.pdf.

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

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