So everyone’s seen reWailuku’s fancy new video of the proposed Wailuku Civic Hub, right? It’s on YouTube if you haven’t yet seen it, so by all means click here to see it. The video is a remarkable computer-designed projection of what the reWailuku hopes a snazzy new 428-stall parking garage in the heart of Wailuku Town will look like (spoiler: it looks like a futuristic mainland urban core, complete with a lot of animated white people walking around).
I’ve watched county officials, consultants, residents and business owners wring their hands over what to do with the Wailuku Municipal Parking Lot (which is mostly used by state office workers) for the last dozen years. But I’m now seeing some serious numbers being thrown at the redevelopment of the lot–in fact, there’s more than $81 million set aside for the Wailuku Civic Hub in next year’s county Capital Improvement Project budget.
Look, maybe this Wailuku Civic Hub will be a good thing. There’s no question that parking in Wailuku is a nightmare.
“We need parking!” said attorney David Cain, whose law office sits near the parking lot. Cain said he’s attended nearly every community meeting on the proposed parking structure, and has had to make due with just an allotted five parking spaces for his firm Cain & Herren, which is the largest in the county.
“I’ve lived here 25 years and civic improvement needs to happen,” Cain said. “The structure built on that parking lot will hold more than five times what’s currently there. If we can bring people in, they’re going to shop downtown.”
But a new report from Sacramento-based Goodwin Consulting Group, dated April 19 of this year, states in plain language that the proposed Wailuku Civic Hub has the potential to do much more than simply making parking a lot easier in Wailuku. In fact, the report says the Civic Hub could serve as a catalyst for major investment in the Wailuku Redevelopment Area (WRA), the 68-acre core of Wailuku Town.
“A need for more parking was widely expressed by public and private stakeholders as a barrier to new investment and development in the WRA,” states the 63-page report. “Consequently, the proposed Project, which includes construction of the 428-stall parking structure, is anticipated to stimulate development of vacant parcels as well as redevelopment of existing underutilized parcels within the WRA for years to come.”
Pardon me for using a dirty word, but this sounds an awful lot like gentrification. It’s what happens when the redevelopment of generally working-class urban centers leads to locals getting displaced by condos and shops more geared to artsy, high-income people. And as I was reading the new Goodwin report, the word “gentrification” kept popping up in my mind.
“Interviews with private WRA stakeholders, such as property owners and business owners, suggest that development and/or redevelopment within the WRA totaling approximately 913 residential units, 340,000 square feet of retail and office uses, and approximately 207 hotel rooms encompassing nearly 210,000 square feet can be expected,” states the report. “These redevelopment projects (Potential WRA Redevelopment) are anticipated to be developed over a period of 15 years and are expected to phase out 48 existing residential units and approximately 280,000 square feet of existing commercial uses.”
How is this not gentrification? How will this not radically changing the character of Wailuku Town? Or is that the whole point of all this?
According to the report, the Wailuku Civic Hub could indirectly bring about a new Wailuku Town entirely–one that includes 27 residential ownership units, 724 “market rate rental units,” 135 “affordable rental units,” 27 vacation rental units, 207 hotel/resort rooms and 336,155 square feet of commercial development.
Seriously, this is all pretty much the dictionary definition of gentrification. And given what the “market rate” for rental units is on Maui, it’s pretty much guaranteed that no working class people will be able to afford them. What’s more, the report states that the windfall from all this potential redevelopment could be considerable.
“While the Project by itself is not anticipated to generate a substantial annual surplus to either the County ($40,000) or the State ($0.2 million), estimated surpluses from the Potential WRA Redevelopment stimulated by the Project are much larger (i.e., $2.4 million to the County and $2.7 million to the State),” states the report. “These surpluses represent only a small percentage of the current operating expenses for the County and for the State, but all or a portion of the surpluses may help to offset the cost of constructing the Project.”
For his part, Cain doesn’t see gentrification on the horizon for Wailuku. “While Maui needs housing desperately, I don’t see it that much for downtown Wailuku,” he said. “It’s a big fear in Boston–I used to live in Dorchester, and that went through gentrification. Yeah, it displaces poor people, but I just don’t see it happening in downtown Wailuku.”
In any case, the Maui Redevelopment Agency will discuss all this–including the Goodwin report–at their upcoming meeting on Friday, Apr. 27. The meeting will take place in the Kalana Pakui Building’s Planning Conference Room (250 S. High St., Wailuku; Room 200) at 1pm.
Click here to read the Goodwin report.
Screenshot of reWailuku video: MauiTime