VIDEO: Mayor Hopes to Transform “Moneypit” into Parking, Offices
By Wendy Osher
The Old Wailuku Post Office was reduced to rubble in a demolition project currently underway on Maui.
The building, described as a “money pit” by Mayor Alan Arakawa, sat vacant for several administrations, plagued with asbestos, black mold, and an unfinished lease.
Now, plans are being considered for a nine story structure in its place. The mayor hopes the facility will help to address the need for employee parking in Wailuku town, and millions of dollars being paid in rent for county offices in non-county facilities.
[flashvideo file=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1b9oTnegkg /] Below is the complete video and transcript of the Maui Now interview with Mayor Arakawa, conducted on Monday, Feb. 25, 2013.
“Over the last four administrations, the (Old Wailuku) Post Office has been a focus. When Linda Lingle was mayor of Maui County, the county leased the post office.
What we found is that the post office was not functional because of a lot of different things. There was a very bad mold infestation; we had asbestos; we had situations that were just so bad that we couldn’t afford to let people actually work in the building.
We literally had to shut down the building and fence it off. But the county still had this huge lease that we were paying.
Last term, under Mayor Tavares, the council finally decided to buy the building with the intent of trying to refocus and get to finally use it since we were paying so much in rent.
So they bought the building and our administration was asked to do something with it.
We did a campus study and we hired a group to look at what the potentials are for all of the space that we have here, and our space needs—taking in mind that we are currently leasing or paying rent for roughly $4 million worth of space every year.
One Main Plaza is one of the major costs for us. We spend about $1.5 million every year for One Main Plaza.
Now, the post office is sitting there, and it’s hazardous… so we decided that the best thing to do is to actually just demolish the building and make the area safe. At the same time, the planning consultants have come up with a scheme to be able to develop office space there and some parking for employees—and that’s what we’re proceeding to do.
We’re looking at about a nine-story structure—the first three floors being parking, and being able to move most of the people, if not all of the staff, out of One Main Plaza, so that we’re no longer paying that rent.
The cost for the new building will be pretty much covered by the rent money that we would have been paying.
By building on our own property, we will now have an asset. So, instead of a million and a half being lost every year, we’re gaining a million and a half in equity every year, that would have been spent.
So, in the long run, we feel that the community will be much better served, we will have a real value, rather than have money go down, disappear, to be lost as rent.
When you’re looking at the economic value to the community, it seemed to us, very logical to do this.
We have before the council a proposal to be able to continue the construction next year. They’re looking at the plan that was given to them. The consultants are willing to go through and discuss in great detail what we have been proposing.
Once they make up their mind, then we will continue; but at this point, the post office is being demolished. It’s going to become a much safer area; we’re getting rid of the mold; we’re getting rid of the asbestos; we’re getting rid of the shelter for homeless that could be hazardous for their health; and we’re providing an opportunity for the community to be able to have a reduction in costs for what we are paying for rent.
I’m not sure the exact amount, but I think we are paying about $600,000 a year for the building (Old Wailuku Post Office), and Linda Lingle was mayor at that time—so I’m going to say somewhere between 14 and 16 years that we’ve been paying for that building, and it’s just been going for nothing accept storage in the beginning, and then we had to pay extra to get the storage material cleaned up. We lost a lot of that material because of mold and water damage.
Overall, it’s been one of those money pits, and we have to get away from those money pits.”