Okinawa Center Looks To Future

Wednesday - September 16, 2009
By Kerry Miller
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The theme for Hawaii United Okinawa Association’s expansion plan is “Ikuyu Madin” (building from generation to generation), and it’s coming through loud and clear.

The city Department of Planning and Permitting accepted a zone change application in June from HUOA to build the Hawaii Okinawa Plaza at 94-1042 Ka Uka Blvd., currently a vacant lot across the street from the nonprofit’s office in Waipio. It plans to build a commercial complex and a two-story parking structure to serve area residents, industrial park tenants, the regional market and internal businesses. The parking structure, specifically, will provide overflow parking and possibly more meeting space for the HUOA.

Additional parking, explained capital campaign project chairman Alan Chinen, was the original reason for the expansion, but when the planning started the project evolved into something more.


“The (campaign) started in 2004 primarily to purchase the adjacent property,” Chinen explained.“As we moved forward, we looked at how can we develop it for future generations.As we got closer into production we evolved, worked on a business plan, started to look at the potential of the building.”

The long-range plan, he added, is to have a revenue stream to support future activities at the center, as well as have more parking. The site currently is zoned for I-2 zone, light industrial,but the process has begun to convert to an IMAX zone for professional use, such as banks, physicians’ or attorneys’ offices.

HUOA bought the 1.99-acre parcel in July 2006 for $3.5 million - borrowed from the USDA. The initial goal was to raise $9 million to buy the land and start construction. The group has raised $4.6 million so far and is hoping to make it to $5.5 million so they can actually put shovels in the ground.

A major funding stream was its annual Okinawan Festival Sept. 5-6 at Kapiolani Park, which also served at the kick off for HUOA’s"9-9-9"campaign.

“It’s a fun way to get people involved,” Chinen explained.“They can make out donation checks dated for 9/9/09 in amounts of $9.99 or $99.99. The money we generate - funds we’re grateful to receive - helps to support cultural activities for the future.”

The number nine symbolizes “everlasting"as well as good luck for Okinawans, said HUOA’s Karen Kuba-Hori. Since the new facility is to serve future generations, the symbol is even more significant. To that end, HUOA also hosted special guests Sept. 9 at the center, featuring art, cultural exhibits and entertainment.

Hawaii Okinawa Center currently houses a banquet room and administrative offices and is widely used by the community for meetings and special events.

“It’s one way we can share with the community our heritage and culture,“said Chinen.

HUOA opened the center in 1990 with a mission to preserve, promote and perpetuate Okinawan culture.

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