David M. Yamashita is an urban planner from Kailua, Oahu with extensive experience in community planning, urban design, and regional open space planning. We are so lucky to have him working on the reWAILUKU concept! Before moving to Maui in 2009, he was a planner in Portland, Oregon for over 25 years.
David has been roaming around taking photos of the town, talking to the community and getting a real feel of what everyone wants to see in Wailuku Town. Hear some of David’s stories while working on this project so far…
Working on the reWailuku project has been so much fun, in part because of the people we’ve met both before and during the workshops. One of the memorable encounters I’ve had so far was when I was walking around town down on Central Ave., I was taking pictures and stopped to talk with Gary, a middle-aged local guy who grew up in the area. He was outside his garage in his t-shirt, shorts, and slippers.
We talked story for a while and I tried to answer his questions about what the project was about. I mentioned the redevelopment area, tax-increment funding, smart growth and all the usual ideas that you hear from planners. I wasn’t sure if I was getting through but then Gary said something that described what we were doing so much better than I had done.
He talked about how when he was growing up, he would always go to Ooka’s, Nashiwa Bakery over on Central Ave., and the Hongwangji down the street, which was his church. “I could walk everywhere – everything I needed was within walking distance. I really miss Ooka’s – that place was my refrigerator. If I needed something, I could just walk over there and get it”.
I was stunned – with just a few sentences, he had described better than I did one the key ideas behind the reWailuku project – you could do basic things like grocery shopping and going to church right in town. Furthermore, you could do this just by walking. “That’s exactly what we’re talking about Gary!” I told him, “You already get it.”
Over the first few days of the workshop, we heard similar sentiments expressed by several other people, mainly those who – like Gary – had grown up in Wailuku in the 50s and 60s. On the first day of the workshop, a long-time resident of Wailuku talked about how many businesses were in town and how when they were kids, they walked and bicycled everywhere. She decried how people relied so much on cars today and how you have to drive everywhere. “People need to just get used to walking again!” she declared.
This is a common theme that’s emerged from the workshops, especially from people who grew up in Wailuku. They could walk or bicycle everywhere because the town was compact enough. As another long-time resident said, “Wailuku is a real town – it’s not sprawl.”
In addition to Gary, I remember another local guy named Glenn. He was walking down the sidewalk during the workshop, looking into our space and I could tell that he was intrigued by what he was seeing. I waved him in and he turned around and came into the building. I introduced myself and took him around the exhibits. He lived in the area and had grown up in Wailuku.
He seemed to really enjoy looking at the base maps and took the time to write his comments on the large sheets of paper we had on the walls. After we were done, we said goodbye and encouraged him to return if he had any other ideas.
I honestly didn’t expect him to return but the next day, who should walk through the door but Glenn. Like the day before, he was in his t-shirt, shorts, and slippers. I greeted him and told him how happy we were that he came back. He didn’t spend much time on pleasantries because he was clearly on a mission.
He walked straight to the back wall and added a suggestion he’d obviously been thinking about, the need for a farmer’s market. Task completed, he turned around and left. I thanked him for coming and encouraged him to return if he had other ideas. He probably does have other ideas so we’re hoping he returns the next time we open again.