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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Hope not dead for arts center in Mililani

By Scott Ishikawa
Advertiser Staff Writer

MILILANI — Even though the City Council cut support in this year's budget for the proposed Mililani performing arts center, organizers remain optimistic the project can move forward.

The Council deleted $2.2 million for planning and design of the $12 million to $15 million center, planned for the corner of Meheula Parkway and Kuaoa Street, next to Mililani Middle School and Mililani Mauka Community Park.

The Mililani community vision team had earmarked $1.5 million from its budget and $700,000 in money the city had assigned to the Mililani Mauka/Launani Valley Neighborhood Board.

Mililani developer Castle & Cooke Homes Hawai'i Inc. said last year it would donate three acres of land for the center, which will have a 750-seat theater, classrooms and studios for music, dance and visual arts.

But the council deleted the items from the budget in May, saying other area projects, such as completing Central O'ahu Regional Park, took higher priority at a time when money was tight.

City Councilwoman Darrlyn Bunda, who represents the area, said a token $2,000 for planning and design of the center was inserted into the budget to keep the city's options open.

"I think there was some hesitation by the council to fund something in which we weren't sure how much financial commitment there was for the project," Bunda said. "Nobody opposes the project itself, it's just this year wasn't the right time for it financially."

Edmund Aczon, president of the O'ahu Arts Center, a nonprofit group that is planning the center, said the organization was trying to work out an agreement to have Castle & Cooke donate the land to the group, rather than to the city.

"Having the title under our name would (make it) easier for us to go after private grants, rather than leasing the land from the city," Aczon said.

He said the group had been pursuing grants from Mainland foundations and would apply for community development block grants provided by the city.

As part of its agreement, Castle & Cooke gave the group five years to obtain financing for the center.

Aczon hopes the first phase of construction can begin before the 2007 deadline. He said the O'ahu Arts Center group had hired Creative Fund Raising Associates, the same organization that helped get money for the recently opened Filipino Community Center in Waipahu.

Reach Scott Ishikawa at sishikawa@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2429.