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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Groups plan on how best to draw tourists to Kane'ohe

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

KANE'OHE — Two separate planning groups are working to improve Kane'ohe and expand its economic potential by locating a town center and making better use of the community's unique features to draw more tourists.

Kane'ohe is a town with several hubs spread over a four-mile stretch along Kamehameha Highway from Hawai'i Pacific University to Windward Mall and mauka to Windward Community College and the district park.

The potential for tourists would encompass more of Kane'ohe, including YWCA Camp Kokokahi, He'eia State Park, He'eia Boat Harbor, Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden and the community's three golf courses, said Herb Lee Jr., chairman of the Kane'ohe Business Group's Strategic Planning Committee.

Lee and his committee want to draw tourists interested in unique experiences that are available in the area such as kayaking in the bay, touring the fishponds, viewing programs at the Imaginarium at Windward Community College or attending plays at the three theaters in the community.

"It's not like busloads of people," Lee said. "We're talking about quality that's directed to the specific interest of the visitor."

The committee will discuss the idea with various tourist organizations after the beginning of the year and work with the Kailua Chamber of Commerce. The Hawai'i Tourism Authority has financing for such startup ideas, and the business groups want to tap into that resource, he said.

Another group is working on the Kane'ohe Town Plan. The $220,000 vision project has two parts: a Town Center Plan and a Regional Traffic Circulation Study, said Corlyn Olson Orr, project manager for the city.

The $100,000 traffic circulation study will get under way early next year.

The committee working on the Town Center Plan held preliminary meetings to discuss town centers in general, the various types that exist and the purposes they serve, Olson Orr said.

"We're trying to get people to think about what would work best for Kane'ohe," she said, adding that the public will have a chance to review and discuss several options before a decision is made.

Janis Chun, a member of the committee and a real estate agent, said the committee realizes that Kane'ohe has pockets of activity, each of which potentially could serve as a center.

Among the possibilities are the police station and adjacent library, Windward Mall, Windward City Shopping Center, Kane'ohe Bay Shopping Center and Windward Community College, especially now that the new courthouse is nearby.

The committee has yet to identify what a town center should look like, and the members have diverse ideas, Chun said. But most agree that a center is a place where people collect.

The problem is how Kane'ohe was developed along one road, Kamehameha Highway, with businesses, government services and activities stretching out for miles, she said. Choosing one site over another could put some businesses at a disadvantage, Chun said.

Rather than choosing a site, she said she prefers improving the transportation system in Kane'ohe to better link the hubs in the community. This option would be a great benefit to the elderly who live on the back streets of the town where there is no public transportation and no improved sidewalks, she said.

"If we could link all of the hubs, I think Kane'ohe would be a more vibrant community," Chun said.

Ferraro Choi and Associates and Belt Collins Hawai'i are the consultants working with the committee. They expect to hold a series of public forums beginning in the spring to present preliminary proposals and to invite suggestions from the general community, Olson Orr said.

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com or 234-5266.