Sunday | February 26, 2017
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Around Downtown

If you haven’t noticed the construction going on at the Mooheau Bus Station, Hilo Information Center and Mooheau Bandstand you probably haven’t been in downtown Hilo lately.

The $600,000 County of Hawaii Department of Parks and Recreation project started in September is scheduled to be finished before the Christmas holidays and is making the bandstand, bus station, information center, restrooms and the overall facility compliant with the ADA. This means it will be much safer and comfortable for the thousands of people who use the facilities every year, it also means the Hilo Downtown Improvement Association office will shrink by about four feet for the installation of the wheelchair accessible front counter.

Working in a construction zone inside the big brown trailer parked in the Kamehameha Avenue bayfront parking lot next to the bus station has been a challenge for the DIA and yet somehow we’ve managed to do a few things over the last three months. One of the challenges has been our lack of communications with our members and the public, made clear from the few comments from people wondering why we haven’t been emailing and/or talking with them.

We are developing a more aggressive strategy to better this problem once the renovations are complete.

How is it possible not to notice the activity and progress being made in downtown?

Maybe it’s like not noticing the construction zone. For example, the Let’s Grow Hilo! beautification efforts continue with the second Hilo Harvest Festival showcasing the bounty and feeding the public from our gardens from 1-5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 10 at Mooheau Bandstand & Park. The event is being held in conjunction with the Big Island Bee Keepers Natural Hawaiian Honey Challenge and DIA is very pleased in that new partnership that is being developed. People are still amazed to find out that we are growing edible (and nonedible) landscaping in Downtown even after two years.

Other projects we’re doing or have done during the renovations include ramping up the AmeriCorps Hilo Improvement Program with Hilo Hula Days every day a cruise ship comes in and other free community projects in the planning. We also assisted the County and Mayor Billy Kenoi in successfully producing the third annual World Peace Festival at the beginning of October and continue to advocate and work to increase the number of trash cans and parking spaces in Downtown. The vertical banners have been changed out twice and tomorrow we have the biggest strolling party, Black & White Night so we may be quiet but we’re effective and creating a better quality of life in the community. All these things and more have been accomplished over the last three months, in spite of the construction, thanks to our membership contribution of annual dues and many sponsors and volunteers.

While the Mooheau construction project is great for Downtown Hilo, a major concern of the DIA has been the continued struggle of our local businesses. The Ebesugawa Sisters and Koehnen’s Interiors closures came as a shock and yet that is what happens when a family operated business ages without a younger generation to take the reins. A few other small stores are on the verge of closing as competition from the corporate level retailers continues to put them at a disadvantage. We’re sad to note that one of the casualties is the Village Toy Shop, whose owner Janet Louise has been informing customers that she will be closing at the end of this year after seven years in Downtown. At this point there are a few others we are not at liberty to talk about but the point is we as a community must look at better supporting our local small business owners.

Your opportunity to do more for these small businesses is coming up tomorrow night at the 12th Annual Black & White Night. Starting at 5 p.m., downtown comes

alive with free entertainment from one end to the other and a great Treasure Hunt helps people discover all the wonderful shops, restaurants and galleries that make up our special place. Get maps and schedules at Grand Central Station on Kalakaua Street next to East Hawaii Cultural Center beginning at 5 p.m. and come check it out and “Think Local, Buy Local”!

Around Downtown is written by Alice Moon, executive director of the Hilo Downtown Improvement Association. Call Moon at 935-8850 or e-mail to share news about issues, events and activities.


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