Wailuku Town is in bad shape. It’s impossible to think otherwise after reading a new report from Progressive Urban Management Associates (PUMA), a Denver-based consultant firm working under contract for the County of Maui.
Titled “Wailuku Town Market Profile,” the report’s executive summary was released along with the upcoming May 26 Maui Redevelopment Agency meeting agenda. It paints a stark, depressing picture of Wailuku Town today.
“While Maui as a whole has experienced steady population growth, booming tourism, and rapidly rising cost of living, market conditions in Wailuku Town have remained largely unchanged over the last seven years,” states the report’s executive summary. “Simply, the rising tide on Maui is not lifting all boats. In Wailuku Town, there has been no population growth, as households have been getting older and smaller. Income has become stagnant and unemployment has been rising. There has been no significant new housing development and the existing building stock is aging and largely unimproved.”
Here are other highlights (yes, I’m using the term ironically) from the executive summary. While not all of what follows is bad, much of it is:
Wailuku Town remains an employment hub for the region, with a daytime population that is 400% larger than its residential population thanks to an influx of nearly 2,000 workers.
Housing continues to be built across the island in an effort to keep up with demand–a projected 14,000 new units will be needed by 2025–but the lack of inventory remains a cause of skyrocketing costs. Furthermore, this new housing is not being built in Wailuku Town, which has only seen 4% growth to its housing stock since 2010.
Given that a majority of new lodging in maui has been resort-based, Wailuku Town has the ability fill a lodging niche that is currently underserved on the island… Wailuku Town is a strong location for a small, boutique hotel…”
The [retail] vacancy rate currently sits at 14%. There are several code and compliance barriers, as well as a building stock in need of general improvements, that prevent new retail (in particular restaurants and bars) from locating in Wailuku Town.
Wailuku’s office vacancy was 16% in 2016… The lack of available parking for businesses is the primary barrier preventing Wailuku Town from fully realizing demand.
Arguably the most pronounced change in Wailuku Town since 2010 has been the growing arts and cultural cluster: The `Iao Theater’s attendance has risen significantly over the past decade; the monthly First Friday event on Market Street has been established and continues to grow; Maui Academy of Performing Arts (MAPA) has plans to build a new black box theater; and the number of art galleries has tripled.
Much of this is clearly laying the political groundwork for the County of Maui’s proposed Wailuku Town Parking and Events Facility, which is slated to sit atop the current Wailuku Municipal Parking lot (which was finally repaved and re-striped, as you can see from the above photo). Indeed, another PUMA document made public along with the upcoming MRA meeting agenda outlines the results of a recent survey of what residents want in Wailuku.
In late April and early May, PUMA conducted an online survey of residents as part of the planning process for the Parking and Events Facility. When compared to the Market Profile report, the survey results are positively upbeat.
“The top three reasons respondents visit Wailuku Town are personal business; County/government business; and arts and cultural activities,” states the survey results. “Difficulty finding parking; lack of diverse retail; and traffic/congestion were the biggest reasons respondents did not visit Wailuku Town more often.”
According to PUMA, 1,196 people participated in the survey. Respondents were mostly women (66 percent). Nearly 41 percent of the respondents were between the ages of 50 and 69. What’s more, nearly 80 percent of respondents made at least $50,000 a year. They also typically visit Wailuku “once per week or more, by car, for personal business.” Perhaps because most parking spots are limited to two hours, they spend just one to two hours in town before leaving.
Click here for the PUMA survey results.
Click here for the PUMA Market Profile report executive summary.
Photo of Wailuku Municipal Parking Lot: MauiTime