We are pleased there is a healthy dialog about the proposed Wailuku Civic Complex taking place in the community in many formats and forums.  We hope these frequently asked questions and responses can provide fact‐based information and some insight into the planning process and decision making that has occurred to date.   

Neighborhood Scale & Character

How big is the project?

The Civic Building is three stories, and no taller than buildings on the same block in Wailuku.  The building footprint in the original design (approx. 15,000 sq. ft.) is smaller than the footprint of the old Kress Store on Main Street (19,500 sq. ft.).  The parking structure is the same height as the Iao Theater and a story and a half lower than adjacent buildings.  The parking structure will not be visible from Market Street except at the ‘beer garden lot’ and from the American Savings Bank parking lot.  The parking structure is set back over 140 feet from Vineyard Street and will be visually obscured by trees in park.

Has the project design taken the historic and cultural context into consideration?

The project was inspired by and intended to honor and perpetuate the cultural heritage and history of Wailuku.  The project site has a rich history and evidence suggests the area was previously used for lo‘i kalo. King Lunalilo had a land commission award where the One Medical building currently stands for his own lo‘i, which was traditionally used to nourish the king’s people as the public market will now.  Over time the area became the very heart of the busiest part of Maui.  During the test trenching for the archeological inventory survey, very little was uncovered below the surface, but there are a number of rock walls, basalt curb stones and an old horse hitch that will be preserved by the project.  

During interviews with cultural practitioners and individuals who have historical and familial connections to the area, there was a strong desire to express traditional values in the new design for the site.  As a result the plan commits 1,000 square feet on the ground floor interior for cultural and historical exhibit space that might also be interactive and educational.  In particular, there is interest in sharing the significance of Na Wai Eha and the importance of stewardship throughout the ahupua‘a.  

The public plaza is designed to provide interpretive signage and space for both temporary and permanent public art.  The plaza design is terraced to figuratively represent the site’s previous use for lo‘i kalo, and also in the circular geometry of the paving pattern symbolizing the site being the center or the heart of the neighborhood.  The pavement color banding creates a ripple pattern as if a stone was dropped into a pool at the center of the plaza and the ripples radiating from the center represent waiwai washing out over the site and throughout the neighborhood.  Native and canoe plants have been specified throughout the landscaping.

Does the project architecture look like the rest of Wailuku?

Designers drew inspiration from Main and Market Streets, as well as the civic campuses along High Street.  When you think about Wailuku Town, chances are you are thinking of the small shops on Market Street or the historic buildings on the Wailuku River side of Vineyard.  However, Wailuku actually has a wide variety of architecture from all different time periods.  Wailuku Town has no single architectural vernacular, but there are elements like large ground floor windows, canopies or overhangs, transom windows, and building wall textures that were incorporated in the design.

Wailuku Building Style Chop Suey

 Strolling through Wailuku you will experience a wide variety of architectural styles.  These are a reflection of the diverse and evolving history of the neighborhood.   Request Music and Farmacy buildings on Market Street are Plantation‐ style that is most associated with Maui’s small towns. Spanish Mission and Art Deco were also popular architecture styles during Wailuku’s heyday. Old Wailuku Florist building at the corner of Central and Main is Mid‐ Century Modern architecture.  And, One Main Plaza up on High Street represents a very modern style office building. 

Will this project take away the only large remaining open space in town?

During the reWailuku community outreach, this was a question we heard many, many times.  People expressed being torn between wanting to maintain large, open space, while also acknowledging that open space in the form of an idle, asphalt expanse that is not useable for much other than parking, is not ideal.  This is why, instead of planning for buildings throughout the existing site, a large community gathering space was retained with improvements for the things reWailuku participants said they wanted to have in an open space: outdoor dining, performances, food trucks and a park‐like atmosphere.  

Illustration of proposed  Civic Center presented in December 2018. Project is subject to change.

Illustration of proposed Civic Center presented in December 2018. Project is subject to change.

Will this turn Maui into another Honolulu?

Wailuku town currently has a four-story height limit and is considering raising that to a six-story height limit.  There are many buildings currently in Wailuku Town taller than this.  In contrast, Honolulu has a 400-foot height limit in its downtown area – which is the equivalent of 38-40 stories in height.  That would be like taking the County building and stacking three more County buildings on top of it.  Wailuku is not headed in that direction.  It is and has been planning to encourage redevelopment in scale with the surrounding neighborhood and existing buildings.

Project Timing

Is this project being rushed for some reason? What has been the project timeline?

Since the idea of redeveloping the Wailuku municipal lot with a greater variety of uses was introduced in the late 1990s, careful and deliberate steps to receive community input were conducted. Here is a comprehensive timeline.  

1962 – Planning started for the redevelopment of this area and documenting the decline of Wailuku Town evidenced by dilapidated buildings, incompatible land uses, vacancies and general slum and blight.

1964 – The Maui Redevelopment Agency was created and properties were acquired at the site of the Wailuku Municipal Parking Lot

1997 – Wailuku Main Street Association Candidates Forum with the redevelopment of the Wailuku Municipal Parking lot as the primary topic for discussion.

1999 – Wailuku‐Kahului Community Plan was adopted, recommends making the Wailuku central business district viable again with redevelopment and rehabilitation activities.  

2000 – Collaborative effort of the government and community created the Wailuku Redevelopment Plan (WRP), adopted by Council in December of 2000.  The Wailuku Civic Complex is the last remaining task to be completed in the WRA stating, “Redevelop the Municipal Parking Lot with potential opportunities for mixed‐use development such as a business hotel, commercial, residential entertainment, public parking or other uses that will create an activity generator.”

2003 - 2010 – Multiple attempts to redevelop the Wailuku Municipal Parking lot in a public‐private partnership without any gaining enough traction to move forward.

2012 – The launch of reWailuku a community input process geared to soliciting input about Wailuku’s redevelopment. Over 500 participants and 1,100 community survey responses.

2015 – The County Council dedicates capital improvements funds for the redevelopment of the Wailuku Municipal Parking lot.   

2016 – County begins to assemble additional land and hires an architecture to design a multi‐use facility.  Creation of a Project Advisory Committee consisting of Wailuku Town merchants, property owners, design professionals and creative community.  

2017 – Project feasibility and conceptual design with over 20 public meetings, open houses and focused feedback sessions over a 15‐month period.

2018 – Selection of preferred design, publication of Environmental Assessment, and partial construction funding secured.

Project Components

I heard it will cost $80 million for a parking garage.  Is that true? 

No.  The project includes much more than just a parking garage and official costs will be unknown until the project phases have been bid for construction.  The directive for this project in the Wailuku Redevelopment Plan was to redevelop the Wailuku Municipal Parking lot with an “activity generator.”  So parking is part of the program, but it is not the component of the project that generates activity.  The Civic Building and Plaza serve that function.  In order to build on this block, significant utility and roadway upgrades became necessary as well.  The original project estimates reflected all of the improvements described below: :

  • Three blocks of upgraded water and sewer lines, new storm drains, undergrounding of power and utilities and new sidewalks and road surface

  • 3‐story Civic Building

  • 7,510 square foot festival plaza

  • 5,500 square foot covered lanai

  • Shared access road/promenade off Market Street

  • 428 stall parking structure

Is there a grocery store going in the Civic Building?  

Ground floor retail space includes what some have called Maui’s Mercado; a public market place with cold storage for farmers and aggregators to bring their produce and flowers to sale..  This may be similar to public markets and food halls found around the world.  This was done to support the agriculture community and to provide a place for locals to get fresh locally grown foods all week long without putting the added burden on the farmers to set up and tear down every day.  The public market was identified back in 2010 as part of the Wailuku Market‐Based Plan as a “catalytic project opportunity that could complement Wailuku’s economic development and provide a critical central gathering place.”  When Ooka’s Supermarket closed, this recommendation became the top requested addition by the community.

The advantages of the public market include:

  • Provides a civic, community‐space for farmers, fishers, food entrepreneurs, neighbors customers and partners to come together around the common culture of food

  • Provides a place for “Made on Maui” products and produce to be brought to market at affordable prices

  • Leverages investment opportunities for a dining and cultural district

  • Creates a new central gathering place that builds upon the community’s historic role as the marketplace

  • Creates an opportunity for Maui grown businesses to nourish the community with experiences, conversation and education about public health and the impact of buying local food.

Will there be government offices in the building? 

The original design included County office space. The second floor of the building was planned as office space to save the County $360,000 annually in lease rent.  The mauka side of the third floor was planned as a high‐tech, public hearing room to improve community access to government decision making and encourage civic engagement and double as a recital hall or practice space for community arts groups in the evening. However, this is also the most expensive part of the project to build.  Therefore the County is reevaluating whether this space is needed at this time in this location.

Will there be any rentable community space in the building? 

The original design and the makai side of the third floor planned as a rentable community pavilion designed for local families and organizations to rent at an affordable price for their events.  It was proposed to include a 2,500 square foot open air event deck that would look out over the plaza and toward Kahului Harbor.  Some type of community space is expected to be included in future designs, including, the ground level plaza space which is designed for community festivals and cultural celebrations and can be rented for events that will be open to the public.  

Funding Priorities

Why isn’t there any housing in this project?

The three story height limit at the project site prevents multi-family housing from being developed affordably at the site. Property owners throughout Wailuku Town are preparing to build housing units and renovate upper floors of existing retail spaces into housing when the project is developed.  While the County is not the developer of the housing, the amenities provided by the Wailuku Civic Complex will enable the private sector to bring housing units to market.

How is the County going to pay for this construction?

The primary goal of this project is to stimulate the development of housing and other redevelopment throughout Wailuku.  In the Fiscal Impact Analysis done for this project by Goodwin Consulting Group, Inc., the project is expected to catalyze over $484 million in new taxable value which would generate an average of $6 million a year in real property taxes to the County (over the life of the bond). Depending on how much of the total project cost is bonded by the County, the debt service can be paid by new property tax revenue.   

Won’t building this project take away from funding for other projects?

This project is an economic development project; meaning the County is investing money to make new money.  Similar to your own household finances, when you have additional revenue opportunities it affords you greater borrowing power to accomplish your financial goals. This project will do the same thing for the County.  If you think of the County’s resources in the form of a pie chart with each slice of the pie going to toward different projects, this does not simply take a slice of the pie, it “grows the pie”.   

What would happen if this project was not built?

The infrastructure improvements are a basic service that is needs to be addressed whether the project moves forward in this form or not.  That represents approximately 25% of the project costs.  When businesses in Wailuku are asked what their number one obstacle to business success is, the majority answer – the lack of parking.  As the needs of the district continue to grow, if additional parking is not provided many businesses will close.  

Parking alone, however, is not an economic activity generator.  It may maintain the status quo, but it will not create opportunities for redevelopment or even for existing building owners to reinvest in their buildings.  The current state of the building stock in Wailuku is very poor and will continue to decline if property owners do not have some of the infrastructure burden relieved from investing in their properties.  When property owners fail to maintain their buildings this results in high vacancy rates, slum and blight conditions, higher rates of crime and vagrancy and a decline in property value – leading to a loss of revenue for the County as well as a deterioration in quality of life for Wailuku residents.

How will the County pay to maintain the facility?

The Civic Building and plaza are expected to bring in approximate $435,000 in leases, rentals and saved rent from the County offices.  In addition, the parking structure will be operated by a vendor with a percentage of fees collected coming back to the County, currently estimated to be approximately $160,000 annually at a rate of $25 for a monthly permit or $0.50 an hour.  

I’m a tax payer who does not regularly go to Wailuku.  What does this project do for me?

Commercial development subsidizes residential development.  In order to keep residential property tax rates low and maintain the large home owners’ exemption currently in place, the County needs enough non‐residential taxable value to balance out the cost of services.  Because of the relatively compact design of the County’s Civic Center area, investing in Wailuku and allowing it to grow provides a high level of return per dollar of economic input, thereby relieving the tax burden from residential property owners.   

Has any part of the project construction been bid out?

Yes.  Phase 1A, the roads and infrastructure phase, was put out to bid in October 2018.  Bid opening was November 21, 2018 with MIRA construction identified as the low bidder at approximately $11,000,000. Phase 1B was put out to bid on July 25, 2019 with bid opening currently scheduled for August 29, 2019.

Long-Term Sustainability and Resiliency

Why should the Council support the further urbanization of Wailuku?

Since 1905, Wailuku has been the County seat and home to State and County government facilities.  The County Courthouse and government offices are supported by an entire economic ecosystem of attorney’s offices, court reporters, social service agencies, accounting offices, planning and land use firms, and financial institutions.  Within a three‐mile radius of Main and Market Street are the hospital and major health care institutions, the University of Hawaii Maui Campus, and over 50,000 residents.  Wailuku is not like the other small towns.  Wailuku may have the coffee shops, restaurants and specialty retail the other towns have but its primary function is to be the County seat and home of State and County government.  As the County grows, Wailuku must also grow in service of its people.  

The concentration of jobs, economic activity, and institutional investment within Maui’s Civic core is an established pattern that can be comfortably and economically enhanced without negative impact to lower density neighborhoods or agricultural lands.  Growth of the civic core is part of Wailuku’s history and its legacy. Encouraging redevelopment in an already urban area saves on infrastructure costs and protects Maui’s open spaces from sprawling development.

Will this project affect Wailuku’s small town atmosphere?

This question is more about whether the neighborhood will look and feel the same after the project is built, and the answer is that this block of Vineyard will feel different.  Any time a new building is built where there was no building before it feels denser.  This is true whether you put a new garage on your own property or if a new building is built in a commercial neighborhood.  It is especially noticeable in a compact, walkable neighborhood like Wailuku.  What it will do is extend the existing pattern of covered sidewalks and street improvements from Market up to Church and Vineyard Streets.  

Interestingly, the idea of Wailuku being a “small town” is very individualized.  When people of the baby boomer and older generation, who grew up in Wailuku, talk about their vision for the neighborhood, they refer to Wailuku as being at the center of Maui’s economic growth and vitality.  It is remembered as the “big town” that had everything you might need and the place you came to eat, celebrate, shop and do business.  People of younger generations or who moved to Maui after the 1960s have a different idea and only know the post‐urban sprawl Wailuku, after the department stores left and there was no longer an economic incentive for business to grow in Wailuku.   

These mental pictures of the neighborhood are somewhat at odds.  But the good news is, for most people, keeping it small town means focusing on the local customer, fostering mom‐and‐pop businesses and not building taller than what is already within the neighborhood. .  The real character of a community comes from the people that make up the neighborhood.  Keeping it “small town” is about relationships, it’s about knowing your neighbor, talking story on the street and shopping local.

If you have a questions, please
contact us. We welcome your comments and ideas. Mahalo!