Honolulu Culture and Arts District (O‘ahu)
Downtown Honolulu and Chinatown have all the ingredients needed to be a center for culture, arts, recreation, retail and entertainment – a center made up of niche multicultural retailers and galleries. Several years ago, a major nonprofit organization in this area approached CommPac for strategic advice and planning to help it expand its role in the downtown community.
CommPac recommended laying the groundwork for a special district where culture and the arts can flourish. CommPac conducted research into how culture and arts improvement districts in other cities were working, and determined whether such a district would indeed be appropriate for downtown Honolulu. CommPac made presentations to city, state and federal agencies; met with community organizations; and conducted numerous informal “soft-sound” interviews, community meetings and “talk-story” sessions, as well as a parallel media effort.
Results: The dream of a culture and arts district has become a reality: it now spans more than 12 blocks with more than 25 arts-related businesses, two theaters, several performance art venues, an alternative movie theater and some of Honolulu’s trendiest nightclubs and ethnic restaurants housed in buildings dating from the19th century.
Kūhiō Beach Improvement Project (O‘ahu)
In November 1999, CommPac began work with an engineering firm on the Kūhiō Beach Improvement Project, a City and County of Honolulu initiative in Waikīkī. Here, the challenge was the task of keeping all nearby residents and businesses informed in advance of construction-related disruptions. At the same time, the Board of Water Supply (BWS) began a water main installation project along Kalākaua Avenue, Waikīkī’s main artery, running parallel to Kūhiō Beach. Shortly after beginning its work, BWS inadvertently discovered a large number of human skeletal remains (iwi kūpuna). Here, the challenge was even greater since in the days before contact with the outside world, Native Hawaiians traditionally buried their dead in hidden places, and there is enormous sensitivity about the disturbance of “ancestral bones.”
CommPac served as a central communications hub for the Kūhiō project, which involved the repeated distribution of timely project information to surrounding businesses, residents, subcontractors, key city officials and other government leaders. CommPac simultaneously served as a culturally sensitive communications consultant and mediator among the various groups concerned about the discovery of the skeletal remains.
Through our mediation, we were able to bring about a solution that allowed the completion of both projects, while also meeting the physical, cultural and spiritual requirements of the Hawaiian community. Our success led the City and County of Honolulu’s asking us to conduct a seminar for municipal officials and contractors on the proper way to deal with the discovery of bones in the future.
Ala Wai Canal Watershed Improvement Project (O‘ahu)
Several years ago, CommPac oversaw the communications effort for the Ala Wai Canal Watershed Improvement Project, establishing partnerships between the community, businesses and government to ensure the cleanup of this extremely polluted canal adjacent to Waikīkī, the epicenter of the visitor industry on O‘ahu. The greatest challenge was the sheer number of stakeholders that CommPac had to turn into project partners. These included government officials, business leaders and representatives of one of the country’s most densely populated watersheds.
CommPac began a dialogue with area government officials, businesses and the general public, which led to the creation of a Community Advisory Council, chaired by CommPac’s Christina Kemmer. The Council encouraged each sub-community to take responsibility for two or three cleaning projects. CommPac then worked closely with the media to inform the public about these programs and encourage additional community members to participate.
The EPA presented one of its two “Outstanding Environmental Achievement” awards to the Ala Wai Canal Watershed Improvement Project. Shortly thereafter, the Honolulu City Council presented the project with its own award, recognizing a great accomplishment.