Civic hub key to Wailuku’s potential
The redevelopment of the Wailuku municipal parking lot will be worth the wait. The project has been in the visioning phase for nearly 20 years, with hundreds of folks supporting the Wailuku Redevelopment Plan’s goal: “Redevelop with Municipal Parking Lot with opportunities for mixed use such that will create an activity generator.”
In reality, this is a complicated task for an aging downtown area. Once we embraced the big picture — and realized the project had to be much more than just parking — the pieces have started to fall into place in a way that will benefit Wailuku town and all of Maui for generations to come.
When the municipal parking lot property was acquired in the 1960s, creating more parking to keep downtown Wailuku competitive with growing suburban commercial spaces in Kahului was the only priority. The municipal lot has served the neighborhood well for the existing level of development. But for real redevelopment to occur, additional parking is still needed.
The Wailuku Civic Hub parking structure will double the amount of parking to 428 stalls. And because all major manufacturers are creating electric vehicles, the structure will be equipped with 40 EV charging stations at the time of opening, with wiring to add another 40 spots once market demand is there.
Upgrades will extend far beyond the project site. Vineyard Street, from High to Market streets, will be totally rebuilt with storm drains, a new sewer line, buried power lines, street lamps and much-needed sidewalks.
Church Street will get the same. Pedestrian linkages with universal design principles will allow people of all ages and abilities to easily and safely walk, bike or roll through the core of town. A plaza, featuring seating, shade trees and a performance space, will expand the successful Wailuku First Friday event and provide a venue for many more community celebrations.
The mixed-use Wailuku Civic Hub will serve a variety of functions. The ground floor is designed as a modern food hall, like a smaller version of Seattle’s Pike Place Market. It will hold lunch counters and dining opportunities, as well as made-on and grown-on Maui product sales, with permanent stalls for farmers.
The second floor will have much-needed county office space. And the mauka portion of the third floor is designed as a county public hearing room, with added seating capacity and high-tech conferencing capabilities to improve the community’s access to the planning process.
Our planners heard residents’ desire for additional gathering spaces for performances, classes, fundraisers, receptions and celebrations. The third-floor makai side will offer a fresh, beautiful community reception space, boasting a large, outdoor event deck with sweeping views of Kahului Bay and the central valley.
This rentable facility has an attached commercial kitchen, designed with our local chefs and caterers in mind to encourage their ability to provide local families and organizations the chance to customize their event. The market and event spaces will transform the neighborhood from an office district to a bustling downtown area with a real nightlife.
Nearly every portion of Wailuku Civic Hub has dual use and is being planned with various scenarios in mind. Top-floor community spaces are designed to double as a FEMA shelter area that can hold almost 500 people. The facility will have a generator and battery backup power, which will enable the ground floor to also function as a food distribution center during crises, which was desperately needed in Puerto Rico’s recent disaster. The hub will also carry photovoltaic capacity to provide up to 70 percent of its power demands.
Now that the project is clearly defined and moving into construction design phase, we are focusing on construction mitigation and neighborhood resiliency. Stay tuned as we keep working to bring Wailuku an innovative downtown shuttle system and exciting public art program. We’re also developing tax-abatement programs and investment incentives to allow the private sector to join our efforts to revitalize and grow.
Thanks to hard work from the Project Advisory Committee, the Maui Redevelopment Agency, the design team and the hundreds of people who have shared their preferences and priorities over the years, the Wailuku Civic Hub will be the missing piece to unlock Wailuku’s potential.
* “Our County,” a column from Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa, discusses county issues and activities of county government. The column usually appears on the first and third Fridays of the month.