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Friday, January 26, 2001

Kamehameha, OHA
ponder museum site

By Rick Daysog

In what could signal increased partnering among two Hawaiian organizations, the trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs agreed to explore a proposal by the Kamehameha Schools to relocate OHA's offices to the Bishop Museum site in Kalihi.

Yesterday, top executives from the Kamehameha Schools met with the OHA board to outline their ambitious plan to purchase the 13.5-acre museum parcel and develop a multipurpose Hawaiian cultural center that would house various Hawaiian agencies and alii trusts.

The $6 billion trust said OHA represents a key ingredient to their development project, which could cost upward of $50 million.

"Our goal is to try to measure the level of interest there might be to partner," said Wendell Brooks, chief investment officer for the Kamehameha Schools.

"If there is a level of interest, then we would be prepared to move forward. If the reception is cool, then perhaps it's not something we would pursue."

While the proposal is in the exploratory stages, Brooks and trust Chief Executive Officer Hamilton McCubbin offered some specific redevelopment ideas.

One is to redevelop the museum's 110-year-old Bishop Hall, which served as the original Kamehameha Schools campus back in the late 1800s.

Under the plan, the aging building would be converted into an alumni center and admissions and financial aid center for students, McCubbin said. It also could house some of the trust's administrative functions.

The museum's newer buildings, such as the Castle Building, could be used for office space. The trust also envisions attracting tenants such as the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and Alu Like.

The trust also is considering using the museum's planetarium to educate students from the Kamehameha Schools and the Department of Education. The trust has held preliminary discussions with the U.S. Air Force to develop a program in which students would be able to use the Bishop Museum planetarium in conjunction with the observatories on Haleakala.

The museum, meanwhile, is considering a separate plan to relocate to state-owned land in Kakaako.

Museum officials have proposed that they leave most of its historical and cultural artifacts at the Kalihi site under a lease-back arrangement with the trust. Museum staffers and researchers would remain at the Kalihi property for educational purposes.

The cash-starved museum has proposed to sell its Kalihi property to the estate for $50 million, but the estate's preliminary studies place the land's value at around $35 million.

OHA trustees Donald Cataluna and Oswald Stender, who also serves on the board of the Bishop Museum, said they favored the museum site ahead of a rival plan to relocate OHA's office to the U.S. Post Office property downtown. Fellow trustee Charles Ota, meanwhile, said he prefers moving OHA to Kakaako, while trustee Linda Dela Cruz said she is attached to the post office site.

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