Set back a few months by a fire in July, the renovation of the old Maui Land & Pineapple office building in Kahului that will house Imua Family Services is poised to begin, boosted by the release of $950,000 of state grant funds by Gov. Neil Abercrombie last week.
The grant, the largest single amount garnered for the project, actually goes to Easter Seals Hawaii, which is engaged in a partnership and long-term $1 a year lease with Imua, according to Imua and Easter Seals officials. The partnership will create a unified Maui campus on the 1.7 acres owned by Easter Seals that will provide assistance to people with disabilities from early childhood through adulthood.
Dean Wong, executive director of Imua, said Friday that Easter Seals wrote the grant request with collaboration from Imua, which is leading the fundraising effort for the building. Its capital campaign set $1.9 million as the target with nearly $1.5 million raised to date from individuals and foundations, according to Imua and Easter Seals officials.
This old Maui Land & Pineapple office building, near the Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center in Kahului, will be rehabilitated to house Imua Family Services. A fire burned through the building in July but engineers have indicated that the structure can be renovated to meet the needs of Imua, which offers programs for infants, toddlers and children with developmental disabilities from birth to 6 years old. Gov. Neil Abercrombie released a $950,000 state grant last week for the project to landowner Easter Seals Hawaii.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Wong indicated that the project's cost likely will exceed $2 million.
The state grant will allow Easter Seals and Imua to start the renovation, said Christopher E. Blanchard, president and chief executive officer of Easter Seals Hawaii, on Friday. Bids for the building renovation could go out this month, and construction could begin in the summer.
Wong is hoping construction will take six to eight months, which means Imua's move from its current Cameron Center offices in Wailuku could happen in January.
About a week and a half after the partnership between Imua and Easter Seals was announced, a fire burned through the 10,800-square-foot, two-story building at 161 S. Wakea Ave., near the Queen Ka'ahumanu Center.
The July 22 fire damaged half of the building on the south side, with the other half of the building sustaining heavy smoke damage, fire officials said. Damage was estimated at $1 million, which was covered by insurance, Wong said in November.
While authorities never identified the cause of the fire, Wong said last fall that he suspects it had started from "a little hibachi grill" that may have been left by homeless people who had sought shelter in the abandoned building.
Blanchard said, given the option, he would have torn the building down and built a new one but engineers said that the structure could be rehabilitated. Wong said that the fire did not require repairs to the foundation or taking apart the framework of the 23-year-old building.
Salvaging the building structure meant staying on budget, rather than spending $10 million on a completely new structure, Wong indicated.
The fire delayed the renovation "only a few months," said Blanchard.
The Imua building will include three therapy rooms equipped with observation windows, a parent/toddler group therapy center, a preschool for up to 24 children ages 3 to 6, a large conference room and a special-needs classroom with attached service kitchen, administrative offices and an outdoor playground that will be in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
The governor noted in his news release that the grant will allow Easter Seals to complete its Maui campus for disability services in Kahului. In 2012, Easter Seals completed the first phase of the campus, renovating the 6,000-square-foot facilities that once housed Kamehameha Schools and Maui Pine preschools, next door to the Imua building.
The Easter Seals facility provides programs and services for youths and adults with developmental disabilities, according to the nonprofit organization's website. When completed, the Imua facility will complement the Easter Seals one by providing services to children with disabilities from birth to 6 years of age.
"This worthy project will provide a safe and secure environment for children and adults of all ages with an array of quality programs offered by Easter Seals Hawaii in partnership with Imua Family Services," Abercrombie said. "The campus will also function as a resource for disability-related services and support groups throughout the Valley Isle."
"We are extremely grateful to the State of Hawaii and the Governor's Office for recognizing the need for intensive early childhood development services and support for all individuals with special needs," said Wong, who leads the nonprofit organization that began in 1947. "Together with Easter Seals Hawaii, the partnership with Imua Family Services will create an entire campus to address developmental concerns for our community from birth through life."
* Lee Imada can be reached at email@example.com.