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September 1, 2022

Design and Development Team Engages Kuhio Park Residents for Community Input on Upcoming Project

 

At the beginning of 2021, Lowney Architecture assisted in the development of a Revised Master Plan that preserves the goals of an original plan devised by the Hawaii Public Housing Authority in 2013, while making necessary updates. The Revised Master Plan redevelops Kuhio Park’s outdated low-rise buildings, which were originally 1960s concrete barrack style residences in desperate need of repair. There are currently 176 units, which are being replaced by up to 650 units, providing critically needed public and affordable housing. The units, which range from one to five bedrooms, will be divvied up in eight buildings over three phases.

 

These redevelopment efforts provide much needed federally subsidized low-income public housing for the residents of Kalihi. Lowney’s vision for Kuhio Park aims to address concerns regarding the lack of quality housing within the neighborhood and the overall safety of local residents. Imagining a vision of sustainability, livability, and a sense of familial community — Kuhio Park aims to be pedestrian friendly, safe, and rich with opportunities for the immediate neighborhood. Despite the fact that the project was shaped by the desperate need for housing, Lowney recognized that the project needed to meld with the residents as well.

 

Earlier this year, a series of Community Meetings in Kuhio Park were held with the ambition of addressing the revised Master Plan. The Hawaii Public Housing Authority, Nelrod (firm specializing in Federal Assisted Housing Programs), The Michaels Organization, Better Tomorrows (non-profit providing onsite social programs), Urban Practice, Leather & Associates (playground designers), DTL Hawaii (a local multidisciplinary studio), along with the Lowney Hawaii Team were in attendance. Because many languages are spoken among the Kuhio Park Terrace residents, interpreters were also on hand to assist Samoan, Vietnamese, Tongan, Lao, Chinese, Korean, and Chuukese speakers with translation.

 

Residents of all ages came by to look, talk, and ask questions. Station topics included the master plan goals, neighborhood strategies & connectivity, the conceptual site plan & landscape plan, proposed open space amenities, cleanup of the adjacent Kalihi Stream, architectural themes & renderings, and playground designs. A board in particular, revealed how the proposed design organizes the housing units around a continuous green belt that runs through the property in a series of connected courtyards. These generous open spaces feature native fruit bearing trees and communal gathering areas such as a shared imu (underground oven), community gardens, a Round House (open-air pavilion informed by indigenous architecture), and Wash Houses that serve as both shared laundry rooms and community hubs.

Grant Chang, Director of Architecture, expressed his sincere intention of making an effort to communicate with local Kuhio residents. Residents asked insightful questions and expressed valid concerns regarding the design intervention, such as the timeline for temporary relocation. Residents and attendees expressed general enthusiasm for the project, and comments and suggestions were recorded for future design consideration. Residents were especially enthusiastic about the proposed open space amenities. Even elected officials including State Senator Donna Mercado Kim, and Representatives Brandon Elefante and Radient Cordero joined the crowd, hoping to learn more and show their support.

It’s common for design teams to become so engrossed in the minutiae of a project that they lose sight of who they’re designing for. Over time, community involvement has become increasingly important in the design process. Baking community feedback into certain projects strengthens the final result and serves as an invaluable tool for the design process.

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