Tuesday | November 21, 2017
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Downtown Hilo’s makeover begins

With a flourish of a brush stroke, Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi set in motion Monday a project that promises to put a new face on downtown Hilo businesses. It seemed fitting, then, that he chose when making his mark to paint a smiley face.

About 50-or-so community members, politicians and others were present at the ceremony to kick off the Benjamin Moore Main Street Matters renovation project, in which Kenoi and other dignitaries were invited to make the first strokes of paint on the facade of Hawaiian Arts at the corner of Furneaux Lane and Kamehameha Avenue.

Hilo was one of 20 communities across North America chosen from a pool of 800 applicants to win a new paint job as part of the paint company’s promotion. Over the course of the next month, Hilo’s facelift procedure will run along Kamehameha Avenue from Mamo Street to Waianuenue Avenue.

“We were very humbled to be selected,” Kenoi said as Monday’s ceremony began under the Mooheau Bandstand. “Our community is a strong community, because people here work together.”

That strong sense of community spirit was palpable over the last few days as the launch to the project approached, said state Rep. Clift Tsuji, Hilo, Keaukaha, Panaewa, Waiakea.

“I was here this past weekend and saw people from the community power washing and sanding. The community has really gotten involved,” he said. “It’s exciting to see.”

Priscilla Ghaznavi, director of color and design studio for the renovation project, said that she had worked with community members, building owners and business owners to come up with a color palette consisting of 28 colors for the project. With names like Peach Parfait, Burnt Peanut Red, and Breath of Fresh Air, the Benjamin Moore Regal Select Exterior paints to be used on Hilo’s Bayfront will help to highlight Hilo’s unique history and tropical flair.

“We hope these colors will bring a renewed hope and spirit to the downtown,” she said.

Other area businesses are also getting into the act, including Dion Kawakami Building Services, which organizers announced had been selected to perform the painting. Monday’s kick-off event even featured an ornate cake resembling the storefronts along Kamehameha Avenue fashioned by Short N’ Sweet Bakery &Cafe.

Among those attendees who were recognized for all their hard work and preparations leading up to the new paintjob was Alice Moon, executive director of the Hilo Downtown Improvement Association. The DIA was hailed as an important organizing force that helped to promote Hilo’s participation in the contest, organizing a viral social media campaign that helped to put Hilo over the competition.

“This is just amazing,” she said. “It’s a new energy being infused into downtown Hilo for the first time in nearly 50 years. It felt like a bit of a longshot at first, but once it started getting going, we really felt like we had a chance.”

Those businesses ineligible for the new paint jobs have the opportunity to receive discounts on Benjamin Moore paint, and also had the chance to consult with Ghaznavi on their own color schemes.

It is expected that, weather permitting, the paint work will be complete in time for the lunar new year in February.

For more information, visit www.downtownhilo.com.

Email Colin M. Stewart at cstewart@hawaiitribune-herald.com.


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