By Wendy Osher
A groundbreaking ceremony takes place this week for Heritage Hall, the multi-purpose community complex that honors the history and culture of Portuguese and Puerto Rican immigrants to Maui.
The facility, located on Baldwin Avenue in Pāʻia. consists of two separate buildings that will house the cultural resource centers on the second floor. The ground floors will be offered for lease to two nonprofit organizations serving the Pāʻia area.
The parcel is located just mauka of the Lower Hamakuapoko Road near the former Pāʻia Mill, Pāʻia Post office and Pāʻia Train Depot sites.
Discussion first surfaced in 2002  when the Maui Puerto Rican Association and the Portuguese Association of Maui joined in a partnership to launch the Heritage Hall project.
“Heritage Hall fulfills the long-standing dreams of both the Portuguese and Puerto Ricans to have a place where their respective histories and cultures can be shared with the general populace,” said Heritage Hall Board secretary Audrey Rocha Reed in a press release announcement.
According to Reed, the facility will offer school children a “tangible glimpse” into the lives of their great-great-grandparents through items found in “Grandma’s Trunks.” The trunks will contain a variety of items including old charcoal irons, coffee grinders, banana scrapers, enamel plates, kerosene lanterns, linens, and clothing worn by immigrants who came to Hawaiʻi in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The centers will also feature books, videos, music, clothing from the respective cultures, a certified kitchen, and a multi-purpose hall. Classes in Spanish and Portuguese, which are currently offered in Central Maui, will be held at Herritage Hall when the project is complete, according to the announcement.
A Final Environmental Assessment  was accepted for the project in September 2010, with a finding of ‘no significant impact.
According to Reed, the project was initially projected to cost $3.805 million, but changes to building plans required by the County of Maui pushed project costs to $4.23 million.
In March, Governor Neil Abercrombie announced the release of $1.5 million in capital improvement grant funds  for the project. Reed said funding contributions have also been made by the state and county, the Atherton Family Foundation, A&B Foundation, Matson Foundation, Maui Puerto Rican Association, Portuguese Association of Maui, and the public.
The groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled to take place at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 10, at the project site. According to Reed, the project is slated to take a year to complete.