(BIVN) – A new community vision is being developed for Hale Halawai, the centrally located, 3-acre oceanfront park in Kailua Village.
Last year, at the request of then County Council member Dru Kanuha, the Kailua Village Business Improvement District initiated a process for a Revitalized Vision for Hale Halawai.
“A revitalized vision of Hale Halawai as the piko of Historic Kailua Village will celebrate our heritage, encourage interaction between residents and promote a deeper sense of community,” last year’s request for proposal stated.
A Visioning Open House was on held on Thursday, March 28. About 25 people attended, organizers estimate.
On Saturday, a smaller group took part in a site visit.
“Today we’re having you come and take a look at some photos and walk the premises,” said Nancy Sakamoto, who is chair of the placemaking committee of the Kailua Village Business Improvement District. “The vision is a dream that describes where we want to go, here and into the future, taking a look at where we are right now and getting public input of what everyone would like to see.”
According to Peter Young, president of consultant Hoʻokuleana, they are “trying to get the community to do what the Kona residents did in 1938, when there was a proposal to take this property and trade it with some other property in Keauhou, and have a hotel built here. What happened was the community said ‘no’, we needed a public place. It took several years, actually decades, for it ultimately to be turned into a public park area.”
A courthouse used to be here, Young said, pointing to an old photo. But after the circuit court moved to Hilo, “it turned into a parking lot, and the Kona Outdoor Circle got involved and said ‘we want to make this into a park.’ And ultimately in 1961 they constructed the improvements on the 3.2
Young said “it used to be called the Kona Community Center and the Kona Civic Center, but there was a contest in the paper and a person was awarded $25 for coming up with Hale Halawai.”
Some opinions have already been shared.
“Some will remember in the old days,” Young said, pointing to a photo of the front of the Hale Halawai building, “this used to be open, all the way across, and there was no barrier on the far side. So when you’re on Aliʻi Drive you could see the ocean from there. Some have suggested, why don’t we just open it up so that it has that old feel?”
“Others have said Kona doesn’t have a village green, a common or a central open place,” Young said pointing to another poster. “So here’s a look of Hale Halawai as it is now, and then with a little photoshopping, taking out the improvements, left a parking area, to see what it could look like, or might look like, if the building wasn’t there.”
“It’s by no means a done deal on anything that’s happened, that’s why we’re here, that’s why we’re seeking the community input,” Young said.
There has also been some visioning for the lawn fronting the shoreline. “There’s been discussion of a coastal walkway connecting Waterfront Row with the Kona Inn,” Young said. “And there’s been some discussions with the adjoining property owners about cooperating on that.”
Participants in Saturday’s site visit gathered under a small tent outside because the Hale Halawai building had been reserved for a birthday party that same day. “This is one of the more reasonably priced locations for large group gatherings,” Young added. “The Kona Imin Center can accommodate about 200 [people], Hale Halawai around 300, Makaʻeo Park around 400, so it’s one of the large protected-area venues for community at a reasonable price.”
“I don’t think anyone is expecting we’re going to spend a huge amount of money and tear this down and build a new building,” Young said. “It’s more of an opportunity now to listen to the community, come up with a vision. Once the vision is developed, then a more formal plan can be prepared. And then depending on what that plan is – and depending on the scale of financial need – then we can determine how it can be funded.”