KCDC Works Toward Hawaiian Heritage Center

Second City Spotlight …Rep. Sharon Har

In 1921, the United States Congress set aside approximately 200,000 acres in what was then the Territory of Hawaii, for the rehabilitation of the Native Hawaiian people through a government-sponsored homesteading program.

Today, 93 years later, Kapolei is the guiding light for the Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL) and its Hawaiian homesteading program as it is now home to DHHL headquarters and three Hawaiian homestead communities: Malu’ohai, Kaupe’a and Kanehili, with a fourth, Ka’ululokaha’i, on the way.

This week, I am pleased to shine the second city spotlight on Kapolei Community Development Corporation (KCDC), a group that has worked tirelessly for the past seven years to serve and strengthen our Hawaiian community in Kapolei.

With a shared goal of working toward the betterment of the Kapolei homestead region, a dedicated group of Kapolei homestead leaders became aware of an opportunity to work with DHHL for the benefit of our community.

This opportunity challenged the homestead leaders and the Kapolei Hawaiian homestead community to develop a plan and take full responsibility for the funding, planning, design, construction and operation of the project it was going to choose.

A door-to-door survey was conducted among all existing Kapolei homesteaders to identify a community initiative.

The majority of survey respondents expressed their desire for a multipurpose heritage center for the growing Native Hawaiian population, where culturally relevant programs aimed at educating, caring for and strengthening our families would be the focus.

Following the survey, Homestead leadership petitioned Hawaiian Homes Commission and were awarded a lease for the benefit and use of the Hawaiian community in Kapolei.

The conditions of the lease required the formation of a separate nonprofit entity to become the lessee and serve the Kapolei homestead region.

The KCDC was created a year later in 2008, to be managed and owned by beneficiaries from homestead Associations in Malu’ohai, Kaupe’a, Kanehili and East Kapolei 2 (Ka’uluokaha’i).

Early on, the sluggish economy and planning struggles stood in the way of KCDC’s goal of building a heritage center. The group, however, remained steadfast and undeterred, and in 2012, KCDC developed a master plan to establish its Heritage Center.

With private and public funding invested, KCDC hosted a groundbreaking ceremony this past July to mark the start of construction for the new Heritage Center.

I was honored to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony to witness the selfless work of our all-volunteer, hard-working Hawaiian leaders and homestead communities.

Particular recognition goes to Aunty Shirley Swinney, Aunty Homelani Schaedel, Joseph Kuhio Lewis, Lehua Kinilau and all of the individuals who helped make the Heritage Center vision a reality.

The Heritage Center is currently being built on one acre of Hawaiian homelands adjacent to DHHL’s headquarters.

Phase I of KCDC’s Heritage Center will include classrooms, restrooms, a commercial kitchen, an outdoor learning area, storage rooms, electrical and mechanical rooms, a loading zone and parking area.

KCDC hopes to add a meeting hall, business space, and a gallery of ali’i and homestead culture.

The Heritage Center is expected to be completed in August 2015 and, when built, will be a significant contribution to our Kapolei community.

Contact state Rep. Sharon Har, D-District 49 (Makakilo/Kapolei) at 586-8500 or email her at rephar@capitol.hawaii.gov.