UH college-town project may start with 'greening'
By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer
In a first step toward improving Mo'ili'ili as a "college town," the University of Hawai'i hopes to re-landscape the freeway exits and entrances, improve the looks of the freeway overpass facade, and generally look toward greening up the area to make it more welcoming.
"There are some easy things we can do," said UH President Evan Dobelle. And UH Chief of Staff Sam Callejo said the university is working with the state Department of Transportation on the H-1 off-ramp landscaping. Even professors and students studying landscape architecture have been involved in generating ideas.
Community representative Rebecca Ryan said the community would welcome a plan to react to and would love to work with area landowners and the university to help coordinate things.
The college town idea was proposed more than two years ago.
"The developers, the university and the community need to interface. That hasn't happened," said Ryan, executive director of the Mo'ili'ili Community Center. "The first idea is the greening of the area, more trees, more planters, more benches, to make it more user-friendly, which wouldn't be expensive if we coordinate it.
"If they came out with a presentation, all of us could sit down and look at how we can accomplish it."
Today at the UH Board of Regents meeting on Kaua'i, UH capital improvements director Jan Yokota hopes to bring the newest members of the board up to date on some of the ideas that have been tossed around in recent months to spruce up the neighborhood.
"The bottom line is we'd like to enhance student life," said Yokota.
Included among the many suggestions are putting trees along University Avenue where it goes under the H-1 freeway; adding trees to the University Square area; using the Varsity Theater location for student housing; putting parking within the blocks, as it is in Kaimuki, rather than on the street; and enhancing walking areas. Yokota also said there had been some discussion about reorienting the large University/King/Beretania intersection, by pulling it farther 'ewa.
Dobelle has even suggested closing down one section of Dole Street, to bring the upper and lower campuses together if that finds approval within the community and if there is alternative access for fire and emergency vehicles.
While nothing is decided, Kamehameha Schools, which owns several parcels of land in the area, including the Puck's Alley corner and small apartments across from the Church of the Crossroads, along with Group 70 International, organized a charrette, or community meeting, several months ago to look at a wide variety of ideas.
Any action is complex because it would involve private landowners, the city, the state and the university, said Yokota.
However, Dobelle maintains that some of the early beautification would not be that difficult to accomplish.
Ryan said seniors and others living in the area might even want to "adopt" a section of new landscaping and help care for it. But that would have to be worked out.
"Greening and flowers can get things started," said Ryan. "I think if people get interested, they would adopt it."
Reach Beverly Creamer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 525-8013.