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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 8, 2010

Learning center to re-create 'ahupua'a

By Alan Yonan Jr.
Advertiser Staff Writer

A 300-acre "learning community" planned for Mākaha Valley will embrace the spirit of the traditional Hawaiian 'ahupua'a system and become an educational anchor for the Leeward Coast, organizers of the project said yesterday.

The project, which will be built on land donated by local developer Jeff Stone, will include a community educational complex operated by the Kamehameha Schools and a 400- to 600-affordable-home development run by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

"What we're trying to create is a modern-day 'ahupua'a," said Kaulana Park, director of the DHHL and chairman of the Hawaiian Homes Commission, referring to a system where the community cares for and uses natural resources along a strip of land from the mountains to the sea.

"When you reconnect back to the land that becomes a stronger community," Park said at a ceremony marking the transfer of the land from Stone to the Kamehameha Schools and DHHL. "When we reconnect back to our ways, you achieve more than just sustainability and self sufficiency, you have prosperity," he said.

The 70-acre educational complex will include resources for children from preschoolers to young adults, said Dee Jay Mailer, Kamehameha Schools chief executive officer.

The complex, with the exception of the preschool, will be open to all children on the Wai'anae Coast, Mailer said. It is designed to be a complement of the public school system and will not be an extension of the Kamehameha Schools' network of campuses, which are open only to Native Hawaiians, she said.

Mailer and Kamehameha Schools Trustee Corbett A.K. Kalama said the complex will allow KS to have a presence along the Leeward Coast, which has the state's highest concentration of Native Hawaiians.

"Who will be the real beneficiaries of this? All those students who don't have access to Kamehameha Schools," Kalama said.

The educational complex also will include a library, media center, learning studios, dining hall and athletic fields.

DHHL hasn't decided exactly how many homes will be built in the 230-acre housing component of the project, but the units will probably be in the $198,000 to $249,000 range, Park said.

Stone, who is eligible for state affordable housing tax credits under the plan, said he has no intention of using the credits on another project or transferring them to another developer.

"This is a pure gift to Kamehameha Schools and DHHL with no strings attached. This will change the lives of future generations of this community," Stone said.

The parties plan to break ground in two years after obtaining the necessary permits, said Kamehameha Schools spokesman Kekoa Paulsen. The project will be built in phases over the following 15 to 20 years, he said.

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