While some may argue that all of Central and East Oahu can be dubbed suburbia, Mililani and Hawaii Kai are prime examples of the "planned communities" housing boom that struck the state in mid-20th century. Developed with homes surrounding shopping malls, few residents work nearby and time-consuming commutes to downtown and other commercial centers are the norm.
Further expansion is planned around Mililani as agriculture gives way to demand for housing. But with hundreds of new units fast filling up the last available land that Henry J. Kaiser envisioned for the area in 1959, Hawaii Kai's population number should soon stabilize.
Hawaii Kai | Mililani
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A view from the waters of Kuapa Pond takes in new homes in "The Peninsula" development, with Mariner's Ridge behind.
Growth of his project
might surprise Kaiser
The community carved from a
jungle in the Koko Head area
has something for everyone
Henry Kaiser, visionary whose favorite word was "imagineering," might be amazed today to see the planned community he carved from a jungle in the Koko Head area in 1959.
Hawaii Kai residents say it's the best area on Oahu, with ocean and mountain vistas protected by underground power lines.
"I can't even envision any other place to live," said Charley Rodgers, resident for more than 20 years and Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board chairman.
He said Hawaii Kai has everything, from horseback riding and hiking in the crater, water sports and diving to "places to go for serenity, whether at the top of the mountain or the beach. Within 15 minutes from Hawaii Kai, you can see the most amazing change of scenery you can imagine."
Kaiser, who combined the words imagination and engineering to invent the term "imagineering," envisioned a model city stretching from Kuliouou to Makapuu Point with 50,000 people and these attractions: a shopping center, 18-hole golf course, saltwater lake at the Kuapa Fish Pond, a marina and beach and lake recreational activities.
All of that and far more have created a community residents have no reason to leave unless to go to a hospital, Rodgers said.
Largely pushed by land values, homes have spiraled from Kaiser's first offerings for $20,000 to $450,000 to $950,000 for the newest ones going up.
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Some resident ducks wandered out to the entrance to Hawaii Kai at Hawaii Kai Drive and Kalanianaole Highway.
"When we talk about doing something now in Hawaii Kai," Rodgers said, "we talk about a new swimming pool, improving Koko Head Park, a new police station and even putting trees in the middle of Lunalilo Home Road."
Murray Luther, 26-year resident and founder of Rediscover Hawaii Kai, is another staunch community fan, but he sees some blemishes from "bad decisions" by developers.
He thinks Kaiser would "be crying" to see how some homes are built and maintained.
A five-year alliance between the three shopping centers -- Hawaii Kai Towne Center, Hawaii Kai Shopping Center and Koko Marina Shopping Center -- to promote and generate pride in the area fell apart this year, he said, adding that he's trying to get them back together.
Luther sees traffic, water and sewage as major problems ahead with population pressures and people too busy to get involved. "We've got to get back to really caring and sharing in our community," he said.
Those eventually may be problems, Rodgers said, "but there's an imposed moratorium now (on growth) by the fact that there is no more developable land" except where the farms are in Kamilonui Valley.
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Central Oahu district
An influx of young families has resulted
in a boom in youth sports, especially soccer
Norma Tansey watches her daughter's soccer practice at the 16-acre park in Mililani as she recalls how advice from a travel agent in Chicago eventually led her family to settle in the ever-expanding Central Oahu town and join its burgeoning soccer community.
"Our plane was delayed, so she was putting me on a different plane and asked me why I was going to Hawaii," she said of her family's move from upstate New York 2 1/2 years ago. "I said, 'We're looking for a house because my husband has a job there,' and she says, 'You have to look in Mililani.'
"She said it's for people coming into the area, and it's family-oriented. It's a great town to be in because of all the sports and activities there are for kids."
The influx of young families looking to establish roots in Mililani has resulted in a boom in youth sports in the community, with soccer taking a prominent role.
"I think a lot of couples starting their families here see Mililani as a nice place to raise kids," said Jeff Yamamoto, coach of the Mililani High School boys soccer team. "So we have a lot of parents that invest of lot of time in their children. One way is for them to be very actively involved in sports. ... It's a family program."
Mililani's origins date back to April 1968 when the Mililani Town Association was formed. The first homes went up for sale two months later, and the community has grown steadily ever since.
Mililani High School, founded in 1973, ranked third in the state in enrollment for the 2002-03 school year with 2,141 students, trailing only Farrington and Waipahu.
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Jensen Toner, of the Mililani soccer team Abunai, practices at the 16-acre park in Mililani.
Two schools in its feeder system -- Mililani Middle School (1,904 students in grades 6-8) and Mililani Mauka Elementary School (1,223 students in kindergarten through fifth grade) -- are also among the state's largest.
The town itself has also continued to expand. Development in Mililani Mauka began in 1990 with the first residents moving in two years later.
"(Mililani's) so huge now," said Sharon Williams, who grew up in Mililani and now has a daughter on the same AYSO team as Tansey's. "It's really changed. ... The town center was all cane fields."
As the population swells, so does the demand for children's activities. Traditional favorites like soccer, baseball and basketball continue to be popular among families. One of the neighborhood parks also features an in-line hockey facility.
"We wanted them to get involved in some kind of physical activity, some kind of sport," said Donna Komiyama, whose daughter plays for Mililani Soccer Club's under-10 team and who has a son who plays basketball.
"For our daughter, soccer is one of the few sports that girls can play, too. ... I think overall it really makes them feel good about themselves."
Mililani Soccer Club, a member of the Hawaii Youth Soccer Association, is one of the state's largest organizations and feeds players to Mililani's highly successful high school program. The Trojans boys team has won the last three state championships. The girls played in the last two state finals, winning the title in 2002.
"The community is investing a lot of time into the soccer program, like other sports, and it's really benefiting the high school," Yamamoto said. "They're very much integrated."
Having children involved in sports requires parents -- many of whom commute to Honolulu -- to juggle their work schedule with shuttling their kids to practices and games. Along with keeping kids away from the television for a few hours a day, the social aspect of sports also appeals to both players and parents.
"They enjoy time with their peers and being part of a team," Tansey said. "It's been great for me. I've met a lot of wonderful people through my children and the teams they're on. It's been a great way to meet people."