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The Honolulu Advertiser
Updated at 10:19 a.m., Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Work progressing on Maui Community Clinic site

The Maui News

WAILUKU - Around this time next year, the old Ooka Super Market will be transformed into the Community Clinic of Maui's new digs, with touches reminiscent of old Wailuku town and of the family grocery business that shut its doors in 2005, The Maui News reported today.

"We're anticipating the actual renovations will start in the next couple of months," said clinic Executive Director Dana Alonzo-Howeth. "We're excited."

Work on the old market's roof began last week, and clinic officials are awaiting a separate construction permit for the renovations inside the landmark store. The building was gutted last year.

Once the construction permits are secured, that will begin a 240-day timetable for the initial phase of the clinic to be completed as early as next fall.

On Tuesday, as workers were busy on the building's roof, Alonzo-Howeth said that while the store will be transformed into a 36,000-square-foot medical facility, the building will carry the same footprint as the old store with its entrance in the same location as the market's.

Also, a small Ooka sign will be posted on the building along with its founding date. The clinic's billing department and records will be in the same second-story spot as the office of the late Barbara Ooka, who worked with husband Hideo Ooka to build the store into one of the top-grossing businesses in Maui County.

"This building has a lot of history," Alonzo-Howeth said.

But gone will be the building's interior second-story windows that store managers used to peer down at grocery shoppers.

Project architect Richard Miyabara of GYA Architects said the renovated building's exterior will blend the structure in with old Wailuku town architecture. It will include a parapet wall, high windows and an ornate railing that will replace the pipe railing along the Market Street side of the building.

What passers-by will see completed next year will be one of several phases, Alonzo-Howeth said.

By next year, 75 percent of the first floor of the old store will be transformed with the remaining 25 percent of the first floor and the store's upstairs still needing renovations.

The roughly $14 million project has secured most of its funding, but another $4.6 million is still needed, Alonzo-Howeth said.

A capital campaign to raise those funds is scheduled to begin in November, she said.

General contractor Arita-Poulson LLC also is eager to start the renovations and clean up the outside of the store building, which has been boarded up and painted with graffiti in places by vandals.

"We're chomping at the bit," said field superintendent Tim Spellicy, who was at the construction site Tuesday.

Alonzo-Howeth said that once the new clinic opens, it will improve services for patients.

Currently, the main clinic in Kahului along Lono Avenue is "beyond bursting at the seams," Alonzo-Howeth said.

The new clinic will have more than 10 times the space of the 3,500-square-foot Kahului facility. And in the first phase, the new clinic will have 20 treatment rooms compared with seven now.

"It's about increasing access for the people who need it," Alonzo-Howeth said.

With the expansion, Alonzo-Howeth expects the clinic's patient load of around 7,500 to grow.

The clinic serves uninsured and low-income Mauians. It is one of 14 similar independent health care centers that help uninsured patients throughout Hawaii with the assistance of state and federal funds.

The expansion also will allow a separation of the clinic's adult medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology programs.

The new location will allow consolidation of the clinic's services such as its administration offices and its federally funded nutrition and health care program for women, infants and children. Those are now located away from the clinic.

While the Kahului clinic on Lono Avenue will be closed once the new clinic is built, the Community Clinic's satellite clinics in Lahaina and Wailuku will remain open.

Alonzo-Howeth envisions the old Ooka site to be a "one-stop shop" for her clients and has plans in the future for a small pharmacy, X-ray room and dental services.

Last week, the project was granted several variances by the Maui Redevelopment Agency. Under one of those variances, there will be no access to and from the clinic via Main Street. The clinic will also have a loading zone area, which will include space for ambulances to pick up patients, she said.

The whole project has been at least six years in the making.

Alonzo-Howeth said funding has come from the county and from state and federal agencies, including a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for around $2.3 million for the site and building acquisition and also funding earmarks obtained by U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and an appropriation from the county for renewable energy systems.

"It's been very broad-based support," she said.

A photovoltaic system will be installed and other "green" features implemented in the building from a cooling system to environmentally friendly paint, Alonzo-Howeth said.

Included in the clinic's construction team are planners Munekiyo & Hiraga Inc. and consultant Hans Riecke.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.