BY SUSAN HALAS – There’s a famous old cartoon that’s captioned: How about never? Is never good for you?
That’s just the way the merchants and residents of Wailuku Town feel about Iao Square. This is a little park slated for a portion of the parking lot next to the Iao Theater. We wish it would go away.
The drawings of this county project show what planners call a “vest pocket” park tucked into the space next to the theater with a cute little food vending stand, some lollipop trees, benches and other features.
What these sketches don’t show is the parking will be removed. They also don’t show is the uniformly hostile reaction the park has gotten from the residents and merchants in our neighborhood.
Those who have been on Maui awhile recall a few years back the same lovers of adorable planning ideas “improved” Market Street by eliminating scads of parking and making what parking remained much harder to use. While that might have made Market Street look ever so trendy, if you actually wanted to park there, well too bad for you.
Many of us who live here thought once we were finally rid of Wailuku Main Street and a new administration was in place perhaps we could have a more reasonable and user friendly dialog about the uses made of our neighborhood, but so far that hasn’t happened.
Our neighborhood is in the Maui Redevelopment Zone and it comes under the jurisdiction of the Maui Redevelopment Agency (MRA). This is a board appointed by the mayor. Unfortunately few of the people on the board over the years have really lived or worked in this neighborhood. Some have lived here in the past, few in the present.
Though the board has heard countless times we want the parking and not the park, the park lives and is still on the agenda at the next MRA meeting scheduled for Friday, Jan 25 at 1 pm in the Planning Department Conference Room at 250 S. High Street (known to old timers as the basement of the old Police Station). A revision to the Wailuku parking in general is also on the agenda for that meeting.
I won’t be there — because like most people who run a business and work for a living- there could not possibly be a more inconvenient time to hold a public meeting. But I am sending this letter in my place.
I think I speak for the neighbors when I say we don’t want Iao Square, we never asked for it (there are two large open spaces on the same block) and we have repeatedly opposed it.
Please let the record show that this is not a popular idea and we wish it would go away.
It is difficult to be critical of the members of the MRA board, all of whom serve in a volunteer unpaid capacity, but it is possible to observe they are not very good listeners, and they seem to give more weight to those cute little drawings than to our ardent desire to retain the scant remaining parking that we have left.
To our mayor, his staff and the legions planners employed to keep thinking these ideas up we say, it’s good to take a fresh look at Wailuku, but in this particular case WE WANT TO KEEP THE PARKING.
This is not to say we would oppose paving the lot, or from time to time, after it is paved using it for public events like First Friday, but a park with permanent structures and no other use, well the time has come to drop that idea once and forever.
And while we’re on the subject of cute little projects paid for at the public expense: Have you ever noticed that darling little green and police substation right next door? It was also built at the public expense. How sad it is totally empty and seldom occupied by MPD. Still isn’t it nice that the police have reserved parking, just for them, that they could use if they ever decided to pay attention to Wailuku.
If anyone up there in the County Building is actually listening, it might not be a bad idea to have an officer at that station from time – particularly at night – because buildings, no matter how historically accurate and nicely painted don’t watch the street or keep us safe.
So “Yes”, to more real live police for Market Street and “No”, or better yet How about NEVER? for Iao Square.
Susan Halas is a resident of Vineyard St. in Wailuku, Maui