Friday, September 7, 2001

Lahaina folks rally
round old sugar mill

By Gary T. Kubota

LAHAINA >> Maui residents are beginning to rally against a proposal by Amfac/JMB Hawaii Inc. to tear down a sugar mill that has been a landmark in Lahaina for more than 100 years.

"It's an icon," said Keoki Freeland, executive director of the Lahaina Restoration Foundation. "If you look at Lahaina photos and postcards, the factory is always there. Everything in the plantation era will be lost if that place goes."

Freeland said he is looking for people interested in forming a Friends of Pioneer Mill Committee to support the preservation of the mill or portions of it.

Amfac plans to start demolition this year of Pioneer Mill and its 200-foot smokestack, once it receives permits from county public works officials.

The Maui Cultural Resources Commission is scheduled to review Amfac's plan at a meeting at 9 a.m. Oct. 4 at the Lahaina Civic Center. The commission was unable to make a decision yesterday because of a lack of a quorum.

Jerry Kunitomo, owner of B.J.'s Chicago Pizzeria in Lahaina, said he has been hearing from merchants that they want the smokestack kept in its place.

"It's part of the long history of Lahaina," Kunitomo said. "I just hope we as a community can come up with a way to keep it as part of the Lahaina landscape."

The mill shut down about two years ago after Pioneer Mill's parent company, Amfac/JMB Hawaii Inc., decided to end sugar production in West Maui.

John Higham, vice president of Amfac Land Co., said the firm does not see itself as a developer and wants to find another business that will build on the property.

Higham said the mill is in "pretty bad shape," and a consultant estimated it would cost $200,000 just to fix the outside of the smokestack.

Higham said the smokestack has not been operational since the 1960s, when an alternative boiler room along with a shorter smokestack was built on the south side of the property.

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