LIHU‘E — Imagine stepping out your front door and walking to the movie theater to catch a 3D flick with your friends, strolling to the farmers market to purchase some locally grown food or taking the keiki to Zippy’s.
Well, it might just become a reality for Lihu‘e, according to Grove Farm President and Chief Executive Officer Warren Haruki, who spoke at the monthly meeting of the Lihu‘e Business Association, held last week.
The project, Wailani, or “heavenly water,” is slated to be located on more than 130 acres near the judiciary building for its first phase. The neighborhood will be equipped with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design qualities such as renewable energy sources, pervious pavement and mixed use buildings for office space and housing.
But it will take community and business support to get the ball rolling on this inaugural project, as it is “not very easy to do smart growth with current regulations,” Haruki said Thursday morning.
“Archaic laws and codes that don’t incorporate smart growth” will likely be a hindrance, but Chamber of Commerce President Randy Francisco said he is fully supportive of the project.
“They’ve got the right person at the helm,” he said Thursday regarding locally born and raised Haruki.
And with kama‘aina in mind, Haruki said he wants to “co-create a sustainable integrated community,” where people can safely “live and walk to work.” And a place where younger residents can afford to “come back” and have somewhere to “play” after work.
Plus, children can safely walk from home to the park after school without parents or grandparents having to “shuttle them around,” Haruki said.
Wailani would utilize maximum space with “high density” residences and shared parking, since there is “no sense in having gigantic parking lots for one store” such as Costco or Home Depot, he said.
A grocery store, local restaurants, a beauty shop and a bank are just a few of the amenities residents will be able to enjoy within walking distance of their condos or townhomes, although “nothing is finalized yet” and they are still “working to secure tenants,” Haruki said.
The timing for the first phase of the project is yet to be determined, though Grove Farm will be filing for final subdivision approval this summer, he said.
Breaking ground could be possible by late 2011, but the process beforehand, such as acquiring permits is “out of our control.” The entire concept would not come to fruition for another eight to 10 years.
“It’s a common vision, but how do we get there?” Haruki asked.
Decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels is necessary and a neighborhood such as Wailani will help us achieve self sufficiency, he said. But, we “need to join together collectively” to “make it happen.”
A completed water master plan has already been established for Wailani, said Grove Farm Senior Vice President Michael Tresler when asked whether water shortage could be a concern.
“We have that covered,” he said Thursday afternoon.
In fact, during his presentation, Haruki mentioned Grove Farm’s Kapaia reservoir which is currently operating at 3 million gallons per day and is even the source of 50 percent of Costco’s water usage.
However, Grove Farm is seeking to increase the operating capacity of drinking water by 2 million galleons.
“The wells have been stressed ... it’s critical right now,” he said. “Without water, there will be no growth.”
Other projects the kama‘aina company is currently undergoing include harvesting algae for fuel, according to Haruki Thursday.
“We are keenly aware of our dependency on fossil fuels for energy,” he said.
With the highest kilowatt per hour charge in the nation, Hawai‘i BioEnergy — collaboratively owned by Grove Farm, Maui Land and Pineapple Company and Kamehameha Schools — is presently growing a “few acres” of algae adjacent to Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative’s Kapaia plant. The algae reportedly mop up some of the excess carbon dioxide emitted by the plant.
“It’s still in its infancy in terms of scale,” Haruki said.
However, it is “highly likely” that within the next few months the area will increase to between 100 and 200 acres. And in the near future, a commercial scale operation is possible, he said.
It will be an “entire field of renewable energy” and will decrease consumer’s energy cost, Haruki said.