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Master plan would reshape Mahaelona Hospital on Kaua‘i

KAPA‘A — Officials are closing in on a final master plan for Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital and the surrounding areas, which will include a new library, police substation and hundreds of units of housing.

The developments are projected to cost about $400 million over the course of two to three decades.

“The master plan vision you see here gives us a view of the next 20 to 25 years,” said Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation Kauai Region CEO Lance Segawa in an update for the Kaua‘i County Council on Wednesday. “The intent is to develop towards this vision so we don’t end up with a hodgepodge campus.”

County Council Member Ross Kagawa, appearing at his first regular council meeting since he was appointed to replace now state Rep. Luke Evslin, discussed the importance of pursuing renovations for Mahelona.

“If you look at (Kaua‘i Veterans Memorial Hospital) Waimea, it looks brand new compared to Mahelona, and it was redone a long time ago,” said Kagawa, who was previously a teacher at the neighboring Kapa‘a High School.

Last rebuilt about seven decades ago, Mahelona is the oldest operating hospital in the state. The plan would boost the hospital’s bed count from 80 to 90, while increasing its long-term-care capacity from 66 to 75.

In addition, the comprehensive plan proposes that the 34-acre hospital campus become the home of a new Kaua‘i Police Department substation, a new Kapa‘a Public Library, a preschool, convenience store, pharmacy, open spaces and 342 new units of rental housing.

While the breakdown has not yet been determined, Segawa said there would definitely be an “affordable component” to the new development. A certain percentage of units will be reserved for teachers and hospital workers.

The master plan has been developed over the course of several years, with planners submitting a draft in 2020 and holding a series of community meetings. The latest update of the plan, released in January 2023, was altered to integrate adjacent state lands, with an expanded focus on community outreach.

“That was just so we can take a more cohesive look at the area,” said state Rep. Nadine Nakamura, who lives in the neighborhood of the project and has been a leader in the planning process.

Some work is already underway, Nakamura said, with $20 million invested from the state and the county to address water source and storage issues.

A primary focus of the original plan was to develop revenue streams for the HHSC, the state agency that operates the hospital. But the latest draft deprioritizes this goal.

“The original intent of the vision was to find ways to monetize the property to support the hospital,” said Segawa. “As time went on it became clear that there were so many civic needs that that priority fell down the list.”

One project that could provide some revenues for the hospital is an assisted care facility, which was placed in a piece of prime real estate on the bluff overlooking the ocean in an previous draft of the plan. After community feedback, it was moved to preserve the ocean view for residents.

Traffic created by new development was a primary concern of council members and members of the public at the council meeting on Wednesday. The area has recently experienced heavy traffic as a result of roadwork on the Kawaihau Road roundabout (also known as the “peanut-about” for its distinctive shape). The development will be shaped by a future traffic study.

“As it sits today, that road is at capacity,” said council Chair Mel Rapozo. “My point is, for the community who might be freaking out — this is a long-term plan in its infancy.”
Source: The Garden Island

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