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Hawaii News

Ceremony kicks off building’s restoration

Rosemarie Bernardo

A groundbreaking and blessing ceremony was held Wednesday for a historic building in Kakaako that will be transformed into a senior community resource center.

The 114-year-old Ala Moana Pump Station’s main building is slated to be restored for the new Na Kupuna Makamae (The Beloved Kupuna) Center, which will offer educational and cultural programs for seniors, ranging from computer learning sessions to hula and ukulele lessons.

For decades, the 1,500-squarefoot building, which features large arched windows and striking lava rock walls, remained vacant after dozens of proposals to revitalize the site fell through.

In June, the board for the property owner, the Hawaii Community Development Authority, voted to approve preparation of an environmental assessment and special management area use permit for the nonprofit Pacific Gateway Center to restore the building.

In the month that followed, Gov. Neil Abercrombie released $1 million in capital improvement grant funds allocated by the state Legislature to go toward the project.

During Wednesday’s ceremony on the pump station property, situated on Ala Moana Boulevard near Keawe Street, state Senate President Donna Mercado Kim said Hawaii’s kupuna population is quickly growing. In 2013, more than 15 percent of the state’s population was older than 65. That’s predicted to increase to 20 percent by 2030.

Between 1990 and 2012, the population of residents age 75 and older in Hawaii increased by 116 percent whereas the same population on the mainland increased by 47 percent.

“One thing is for certain: We will all one day be kupuna. And so given these facts and figures, it’s essential we continue to invest in projects that allow our most vulnerable to be active and resourceful participants in our community,” Kim said.

Lawmakers said the center is a good fit for Kakaako’s ongoing redevelopment effort, which envisions a mixed-income neighborhood with a wide range of housing, shops and green spaces.

The environmental assessment for the project is slated to be completed by May. If all goes well, Tin Myaing Thein, executive director of the Pacific Gateway Center, said the center could open in late summer or fall 2015.

Nan Inc. will conduct repair and restoration work on the building to address cracked roof tiles as well as cracks in the walls, plumbing, electricity, grading and landscaping.

The Richardsonian Romanesque-style building made with large cut blocks of blue stone was built in 1900. The pumping station was Honolulu’s first sewage disposal facility. It shut down in 1955 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

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