Makaha project is big step forward


POSTED: Friday, April 09, 2010

The foundation has been put in place for an ambitious plan by Kamehameha Schools to build an educational facility aimed at bringing together schools and families up and down the Leeward Coast. The most poverty-stricken area of Oahu has been in desperate need of such a project, which promises to vitalize the area like no previous enterprise.

Real estate developer Jeffrey R. Stone has contributed 300 acres of Makaha Valley, which will include what Kamehameha calls a 70-acre “;learning community”; and up to 600 affordable housing units on the other 230 acres being made available to the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2012 and be completed in 15 to 20 years, according to the schools, formerly the Bishop Estate, which will invest $100 million in the project.

It is the first parcel of land that Kamehameha Schools has owned along the Leeward Coast, which has the world's largest concentration of native Hawaiians. Dee Jay Mailer, Kamehameha's chief executive officer, says some of the center's programs would be available to all students while others would give priority to Hawaiian children.

It will not be simply another of its school's campuses. “;Instead,”; the estate says on its Web site, “;it is envisioned as an extension of community good work”; that would “;first and foremost”; target preschool children and their families, including from infancy. That attention has been sorely lacking throughout the state but especially on the Leeward Coast.

“;The learning community at Makaha will be a sustainable, cultural and educational gathering center that supports, in perpetuity, the entire Leeward Coast, from Kaena Point to Kapolei,”; the estate asserts. Its initiatives will be aimed at “;learners of all ages”; with links to existing schools along the coast.

In acknowledging the plans to the Star-Bulletin last August, the estate called it a “;Learning Innovation Center”; that would act as a laboratory for teachers and as a site for project- and land-based learning, supporting lifelong education for Hawaiians.

Kaulana Park, director of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and chairman of the Hawaiian Homes Commission, says the housing development will become “;a modern-day ahupua'a and a new lifestyle as one community.”;

The plans are ambitious — and are based on the native concept of reconnection between people and the natural environment, from mountain to sea. Hard work and community involvement will be essential to help this project achieve clarity. The fervent hope is that today's promise takes hold and is nurtured as a source of pride into a lasting resource for a community deserving, but long underserved.