“Does a parking structure fit a live/work vision for the future without cars?”
These 14 words appear about half-way through an Apr. 21, 2017 memo from the consulting firm P.U.M.A to Maui County planner Erin Wade and various other consultants concerning the proposed Wailuku Parking & Events Facility. The Maui Redevelopment Agency (MRA) will be discussing “the first version of the preferred design” (after a presentation by project consultants Ferraro Choi and PBR Hawaii) at its upcoming July 28 meeting, so in preparation I went back through some of the available public records on the project.
The above question appears in a section of the P.U.M.A. memo that details the project’s potential influences on the Wailuku business climate. It’s almost an afterthought, appearing at the end of a list of eight “Concerns & Considerations,” yet in a time of innovations in driverless cars and carsharing companies like Zipcar, it sticks out like it was written in neon pink.
The proposal to replace the Wailuku Municipal Parking Lot with a large parking structure has been around so long it risks carrying over into a time when many people simply stop driving their own cars when traveling. Then again, what the county is proposing goes far beyond a mere parking garage. The P.U.M.A. memo “suggests” the facility may include an “indoor multi-function, dividable civic room” with an occupancy of 120-150 people and a “programmable outdoor space of about 15,000 to 25,000 square feet with a state, seating, and interactive play features that links physically and visually to the existing activity center at Market Street/Kipuka Square.”
More than simply building a new parking and events facility, the P.U.M.A memo makes all sorts of suggestions that radically change the makeup of Wailuku Town itself:
- “To maximize activity and economic development potential, the plaza/park element should be connected visually, physically and programmatically, to Market Street as much as possible;”
- “A restaurant between the plaza area and Market Street (where the Public Defender’s Office is currently a tenant and the Banyan Tree) would be an ideal use to connect Market Street, ‘Ioa [sic] square, and the proposed park/plaza;”
- “The Calvary Church property would make a great grocery/food market location;”
- “Properties on Market need grease traps in order to convert to restaurant but digging is too expensive. Project might be able to coordinate and encourage installation during construction excavation.”
P.U.M.A also sees the new facility as a way to “help advance the brand and awareness of Wailuku Town as an arts & culture destination,” though it also notes that the current Arts & Cultural Plan for Wailuku is currently “on hold due to funding availability.”
Clearly, this is a big project, and many of the concerns highlighted in the P.U.M.A memo (not even including the one mentioned at the top of this piece) are plenty scary. They include the following:
- “Interim parking and impacts on retailers and restaurants during the construction. The risk that by the time it is built it will have pushed out surrounding tenants, and that you end up with a parking structure with nothing around it;”
- “Ensure local restaurants and retailers can continue to afford to be in Wailuku and are not priced out;”
- “Massing that overwhelms the character of Wailuku Town;”
- “What will happen to the Banyan Tree. Can it be retained?”
These are existential questions for Wailuku Town, and for the project itself. If we’re going to tear apart the heart of the town, we better be damn sure the ultimate project is going to make the town better. And though everything is still in the preliminary stages, the MRA clearly has a lot of work ahead of them on the proposed Wailuku Parking & Events Facility.
The Maui Redevelopment Agency will meet at 1pm on Friday, July 28 in the Planning Department Conference Room on the first floor of the Kalana Pakui Building (250 S. High St., Wailuku).
Photo of Wailuku Municipal Parking Lot: MauiTime