Friday, January 26, 2001
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Posted on: Friday, January 26, 2001

Kamehameha exploring joint purchase of Bishop Museum

By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

Kamehameha Schools will continue to explore joint purchase of the Bishop Museum property with Hawaiian organizations, officials said yesterday after getting encouragement from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

The school is interested in buying the 15-acre museum campus only if OHA and/or other Hawaiian organizations would join it to create a Hawaiian governmental, educational and service center, schools officials told OHA trustees.

Wendell Brooks Jr., chief investment officer for the schools created by the Bishop Estate, said the schools could not justify buying the museum campus only for the schools’ educational or endowment purposes, even if the museum reduced its initial estimated $50 million asking price.

But after OHA trustees expressed interest in possibly joining other Hawaiian organizations in the historic museum buildings, schools chief executive officer Hamilton McCubbin said the school would continue to explore the purchase.

OHA trustee Oswald Stender, a former Bishop Estate trustee and a member of the museum board of trustees, said the museum is considering building a new facility in Kakaako, with a science center, to reach a wider audience and generate income from tourists.

The museum’s collections would be maintained, partly or entirely at the new site, but the future of the museum’s research activities is still under discussion, Stender said.

For all its historic value as a former home of Kamehameha Schools and as Charles Reed Bishop’s display case for Hawaiian royal collections and Polynesian history, the museum campus may be proving too costly for the museum to maintain and too remote to attract many tourists, Stender said.

Brooks said that despite the fact that the museum site near the intersection of H-1 Freeway and Likelike Highway is zoned to allow commercial use, the property may be worth no more than $34 million because there seems to be no need for a new shopping center there.

And given the fact that the buildings are both protected by historic preservation rules and in need of costly maintenance, the value of the campus could be reduced even further, Brooks said.

OHA board chairwoman Haunani Apoliona referred the matter to the board’s land committee, consisting of Stender and trustee Donald Cataluna.

Cataluna said he was more interested in the museum site as a new OHA headquarters than the old downtown U. S. Post Office site the board has been considering.

Stender said that as a graduate of Kamehameha Schools, he has sentimental ties to the museum, but he doubted use by OHA would be cost-efficient unless other Hawaiian agencies shared the facilities and costs.

OHA trustee Colette Machado urged that the museum property be preserved and not be allowed to fall into the hands of private developers. As a child growing up in a family on welfare, she said, the museum was the place she first "learned about my Hawaiian-ness."

But OHA trustee Linda Dela Cruz said she preferred the post office site for OHA.

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