Around Downtown: Reflecting on year’s successes


On Feb. 13 in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, Hilo Downtown Improvement Association members and special guests joined together at the organization’s annual general membership meeting for complimentary refreshments and a round of “speed networking.”

Along with the lively conversations that took place between matched pairs taking about five minutes to get to know each other before moving on to the next, the 50-year old-DIA also did some business.

President Jeff Melrose and Executive Director Alice Moon offered highlights of 2012 and Vice President Steven Markham gave the Nominating Committee’s report and recommendations resulting in the membership electing four new board members.

“Downtown Hilo is aging gracefully,” said Melrose, as he detailed the DIA’s solvent fiscal position and numerous programs and accomplishments to the crowd gathered in the historic Palace Theater lobby. Melrose gave thanks to the County of Hawaii mass transit for the strong relationship and continuing contract for managing the Hilo Information Center, one of the main sources of operating funding. Melrose introduced Councilman J Yoshimoto, who is now the one council person representing downtown, who promised to listen to concerns and suggestions and take appropriate action as needed and thanked DIA for their efforts.

Moon shared that “landing the AmeriCorps grant was absolutely the biggest success last year,” referring to the Hilo Improvement Program being funded by the grant. The grant leverages already existing Let’s Grow Hilo landscaping beautification efforts and Hilo Hula Days free hula and Hawaiian music on cruise ship days, using these programs to engage more business and community in downtown.

DIA office manager and HIP Program Manager Georgia Pinsky explained what the HIP program was doing and gave the overall goals of the program.

HIP team captain and grant writing partner Lani Thur-Fine spoke to the group about the weekly free HIP Tuesday workshops and presentations being offered and invited all attendees to get involved either as presenters/educators or as participants to learn and share.

HIP team member Bea Larson talked about the upcoming “Earthquake/Tsunami Workshop II: Business Preparedness” to be held from 5-7 p.m. on April 16 at the Pacific Tsunami Museum. Free for DIA members or $5 per person for non-members, the workshop will offer helpful information for businesses, communities and families to learn how to best prepare for evacuation. For more information, email hiloimprovementprogram@gmail.com.

“Hands down, the renovations to the Hilo Information Center, Mooheau Bus Station and Bandstand were our biggest challenge in 2012, especially operating out of a construction trailer through the busy holiday and cruise ship season for four months,” Moon said at the meeting. “On the flip side, even under such strained circumstances, we were still able to kick HIP off, keep our gardens growing, produce major events drawing people to town, and keep serving the community and visitors. And, thanks to Hawaii County, we have newly renovated facilities designed for people of every ability to use and enjoy!”

Markham talked about the nominating process and presented the slate of nominees including Sita Gonzales, building manager for DIASTAN LLC (Hara properties on Kilauea St.), Christine Mingo, co-owner/manager of Emery Plumbing, Tyler Owens, manager of Aloha Grown retail shop on Kamehameha Avenue, and Pam Owens (no relation to Tyler!), owner/manager of Pineapples Island Cuisine on the corner of Mamo and Keawe streets. There were no nominations from the floor and the membership unanimously voted to accept all four nominees who will now join Melrose, Markham and continuing board members Lisa Best, Reiko Hamano, Jeff Harman, Jennifer Zelko, and Tom DeWitt.

DOWNTOWN EVENT: Tomorrow is First Friday and more businesses are staying open late welcoming evening strollers to stop by and visit. Taking the lead, High Fire Hawaii Gallery & Studio and One Gallery have been staying up late, having artist receptions and workshops for you for a couple

years now. For the last few months, owners of the buildings that house The Hawaiian Force, Hilo Used Books, and One Gallery (all three will be open) have hosted free music, performers and specialty vendors at their Night Market as part of the Art Walk started by Hilo Town Tavern.

The tavern caters to the late-night younger crowd and presents new artists’ works in a lively environment.

At the Night Market tomorrow, a DIA fundraiser will offer the public a chance to support the organization by purchasing one of a kind giclee lava photographs by Leigh Hilbert from 5-8 p.m. A former Hawaii Island resident artist, now moved to British Columbia, Hilbert gifted the prints to Alice Moon who has in turn gifted them to the DIA for special program and event fundraising.

Basically Books, Big Island Bookbuyers, Bites, Bytes & Pieces, Dreams of Paradise Gallery, M. Claire Studio and several other shops have joined and of course KTA is always open on Fridays until 9 p.m.

The East Hawaii Cultural Center has art opening receptions on First Fridays and the Palace Theater Café and lobby open at 6:30 p.m. every Friday to the public with a live event or film taking place inside the theater.

Restaurants offering live music and other Friday specials include Café Pesto, The Oasis Café, Pineapples, 100% Moxie, and the Bayfront Kava Bar, among others.

As more others join in, First Fridays can become a mini Black & White Night and we will be posting lists and maps on our website soon.

First Friday or not, we always encourage you to come downtown for your “Think Local, Buy Local” experience!

 

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