Last week, Three's Bar & Grill hosted an informal gathering of a dozen residents of the area between Kupuna Street and Welakahao Road, mauka of South Kihei Road.
These residents are initiating the Waimaha'iha'i District Neighborhood Association (WDNA). The neighborhood, which extends up to the Pi'ilani Highway and encompasses several hundred homes, is known to locals as the Waimaha'iha'i District, named after the fire station serving the area.
Homeowner, WDNA organizer and project point man Kevin Curry spoke to attendees about his motivation and vision for the organization.
“Good things are on their way for residents of Kīhei,” said Waimāha‘iha‘i District Neighborhood Association organizer Kevin Curry.
"I've spent over a half-million dollars on my home and I tire of telling people I live behind the Kukui Mall or up the road from Shaka's Pizza," Curry said. "It's time we put forth a better sense of place as Maui residents."
Organizers intend to write a history of the area, including a "who's who" of past residents, and conduct a host of collaborative projects, such as "clean the ravine" and "Mele Waimaha'iha'i," a Christmas lighting ceremony.
"Living in Kihei is a bit like living in Los Angeles," Curry continued. "L.A. is comprised of many smaller communities. Similarly, if you tell someone you live in Khei, that could mean anywhere from Sugar Beach near Ma'alaea, or as far south as Kilohana Street on the edge of Wailea.
"Even though the Kihei Community Association is doing a great job representing Kihei's interests, I'd like to be proud of my little patch of paradise," said Curry. "The WDNA lets me focus on just our 10 streets and is small enough to give us a unique identity apart from other areas such as the Halama or Azeka Districts. If we're successful, maybe more neighborhoods will do the same."
Curry explained the organization will be different from a homeowner's association. The neighborhood association will include both owners and renters. And rather than focusing on controlling the neighborhood's color scheme, the WDNA will focus on education, collaboration and inspiring a sense of community.
"Funding will be challenge," said Curry. "Unlike Home Owners' Associations, where individual assessments can run as steep as $1,400 per month in communities like Wailea, the WDNA hopes to attract donations and rely upon volunteer involvement to accomplish its goals."
Projects slated for the association include painting curb numbers on each street, and lobbying for resources from Maui County, such as street paving, sidewalk improvements and street light maintenance. As well, the organization hopes to establish a neighborhood directory to encourage business networking opportunities, sharing information for flood insurance and mapping with FEMA, and coordinating home improvements such as tree or mailbox replacement.
"The district, largely built in the 1970s, is mired in the need for maintenance," said Curry. "New homeowners from the Mainland might not have a clue as to how to prune back their tropical trees or when to cut back ginger. One of the first projects involves inviting a certified arborist and a landscaper to lead a sort of neighborhood parade--a walk down Kupuna Street--to comment on the condition that each property's foliage finds itself in and give pointers as to how to improve landscaping."
As Kihei continues to grow, this "bedroom community" finds itself flanked by commercial development on the makai side and lower-income housing flanked by New Hope Chapel on the mauka side. As the landscape of the area changes, the existence of the WDNA intends to give a voice to residents and serve to protect their interests in maintaining the lifestyle they enjoy.
"Of particular interest at the meeting was the topic of creating a bike path and providing walking access for the residents of the housing along Old Welakahao Road, which abuts many houses along the Pi'ilani Highway perimeter," said Curry.
Next month, a charter meeting will be held, where eligible homeowners and renters within the district will have the opportunity to sign on as founding members and give birth to the new association. Residents, renters and anyone with a material interest in the area, such as realtors with listings in the Waimaha'iha'i District, are encouraged to attend the next meeting (to be announced in early May).
Email WDNA@hawaii.rr.com in advance to register with the organization, lend support and to receive future announcements.
"Good things are on their way for residents of Kihei," concluded Curry.