Photos: Courtesy of Rae Huo
Article Written By: Jenny Quill, HONOLULU Magazine
What is it?
Built in the early 20th century, these four residences located on Kamehameha Highway in Haleiwa are some of the few remaining plantation-style homes along the historic town’s main thoroughfare. “This property represents a piece of Old Hawaii plantation architecture, and part of that adds to Haleiwa’s charm,” says Antya Miller, a member of the North Shore Neighborhood Board.
What threatens it?
Owner Scott Wallace, who purchased the houses a couple of years ago, hired Plan Pacific, a Honolulu-based planning firm, to assess the physical condition of the homes for historic preservation or adaptive reuse, and to then devise a plan and request the necessary zoning change from a residential to a business district. Plan Pacific’s assessment was not in favor of historic preservation. “It would cost a lot [to preserve them],” says Plan Pacific president John Whalen. “The problem was for years the houses weren’t well-maintained. They were in a cosmetic way, they looked OK, but some big issues weren’t addressed. There are cesspool problems, termite damage, basic plumbing and electrical problems. They’re still habitable, but they’re reaching a point where they’re not going to be.”
Plan Pacific has devised a plan for a single-story commercial building fronting Kamehameha Highway and three live-work units placed behind it. Because the property is located within the Hale‘iwa Special District, both the live/work units and the commercial building will have to adhere to the district’s strict design guidelines.
While that’s all fine and good, says Miller, she doesn’t believe that the original charm and character of the houses could ever be replicated. “The primary reason that most of us want that property preserved is it’s unique in Hale‘iwa town,” she says. “There are hardly any of those plantation-era homes or cottages left. We want to retain what makes our town unique and interesting to people as well as retain our heritage for us and for our children.”
What can be done?
The property will be going up for its final zone-change approval this month. After that, the project will need to receive a Special Management Area permit and Hale‘iwa Special District permit, both of which require more detailed plans. Whalen was unable to give a specific time frame for when this process may be finalized.
In the meantime, concerned local community groups and residents have been fighting the houses’ demolition. “I’m not necessarily opposed to the rezoning per se,” says Laura Couch, a neighboring property owner and real estate litigator. “But in a perfect world, I would like to see those structures renovated to house small businesses that would not impact the neighboring residences. Just because [the homes] are in poor shape doesn’t mean they can’t be fixed up.”
Couch encourages people to voice their concerns at neighborhood board and City Council meetings, or to write the neighborhood board, zoning committee, City Council or the developer. “Anybody can write and tell our elected officials how we feel,” says Couch.