With the 1960’s decline of the sugar industry Wailuku became blighted, which led to the 1965 development of the Maui Redevelopment Agency (MRA). As a division of the County of Maui, five board members are appointed by the mayor and approved by the County Council. Designed to eliminate and prevent the reoccurrence of slum and blight conditions, today's MRA is unrolling a $75M "Wailuku Civic Hub," funded by general obligation bond and designed (and redesigned, and redesigned again over the course of 20 years of visioning!) as a massive community collaboration project. What began as a strong demand for additional street parking has now evolved into a PLACE; a focal point for meeting, presenting, sharing, exploring and celebrating Wailuku.
Now that plans are approved and ready to launch as we near our ground-breaking date, the County is determined to engage Wailuku Civic Hub participants (including builders, designers, cultural advisors, business owners, patrons, pedestrians; anyone and everyone interacting with this super-project) in a mutual and continuous dialogue aimed at education, interpretation and understanding. By working together, we hope to tap into the rich, cultural history of Wailuku and to bring its story to light at every step.
On Tuesday, April 10, 2018, a team of Wailuku Civic Hub creators joined Department of Public Works Highway Division, Wailuku District Supervisor Gary Ambrose and his crew of more than 20 employees to offer context for the project, which they will be initiating later this month. With dozens of property and business owners situated in very close proximity to the construction site and hundreds of stakeholders with direct and indirect interest in the project potentially approaching any one of these workers throughout their timeline, the goal is to ensure that each has a clear understanding of the “what, why and how” of this work.
Cultural Sustainability Planner Ramsey Taum began with, “the history of Wailuku is loud and clear, but the culture is also very evident. Wailuku is the water that roars, the destructive water. By integrating this sense of place into the design of the project you are all about to work on, we emphasized both function and form.” His examples included misters to be built at the site, a depiction of the mist to which the name Waiehu refers; a tiered parking garage with levels indicative of a taro patch; and areas of the site dedicated for gathering, like pools of water giving energy to the site.
Archaeologist Eric Fredrickson, who will be overseeing any project digging, and Lawrence Kauhaʻahaʻa, who leads Wailuku Clean & Safe, a program that hires homeless and mental health clients to sweep, clean and maintain the area, offered their introductions to the crew and how each can be of service during the initial phase. “This will not be like many other build sites,” remarked Fredrickson, “this will be slow and intentional. We’ll stop when we need to.”
Erin Wade, small town and redevelopment planner for the County of Maui, suggested “Don’t be here just because you were asked. Know what work you are doing and why you are doing it, and that you are part of the proper archaeological process that this project deserves,” continuing with an overview of the 8-year process that began just as the 2010 plan was about to break ground, (but was ultimately rejected by the community it sought to serve). “Ok, we get it Wailuku. We need this to be a mixed-use facility. The only way we are going to do this is if we work together.” Ambrose’s team was then encouraged to share their thoughts and ideas, which the Supervisor said they wouldn’t do here in front of everyone, “I’m sure they’ll have a lot of questions offline. This is why I made today’s meeting mandatory for the crew. They need to understand that this is a project that has to be treated sensitively - it’s kind of a sensitive situation. We have dealt with the Burial Council and with other archaeologists before, so most know the proper procedure. This is the bigger picture.”
Additional exchanges are set to take place in April with the Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce, the State Historic Preservation Division Burial Council and Kahului Rotary Club.