Abandoned, historic building in Lāhainā poised for upgrades
March 16, 2022, 6:30 AM HST
* Updated March 16, 9:36 AM
County offices or senior center uses are being considered, along with other possibilities, for the historic Pioneer Mill Co. office building in Lāhainā.
The more-than-century-old structure is registered by the state as a historic place, but it has been vacant and in disrepair since the mill closed in 1999.
In fact, neighboring residents have complained about the dilapidated, county-owned structure. It is adjacent to the West Maui Senior Center on 1.86 acres off Lahainaluna Road, just mauka of Honoapiilani Highway and the Pioneer Mill smokestack.
“That’s why we’re here today — because we’ve gotten so many complaints about the way it looks,” Theo Morrison, Lahaina Restoration Foundation executive director, said during a meeting last week. “So it’s not compatible with the neighborhood. It’s an abandoned building in the middle of a residential area.”
Morrison, Michael Summers, president of Wailuku-based Planning Consultants Hawaiʻi, and others discussed the Pioneer Mill Co. office building restoration project Thursday night. The community meeting was the third since last year in a process that could take about five years to obtain funding, permits and approvals.
“Where we are right now, we’re not proposing necessarily a specific use. We don’t have a group that is banging on the door to come in and use the property. And we don’t have any funding,” Summers said. “So that makes this plan a little bit different in the sense that it’s more conceptual than definitive as a proposal.”
During community meetings, people have mulled public use options that include county office, senior center, health and wellness, plantation museum or coworking spaces.
County offices or senior center uses may be the best avenues for funding and permitting, some said during last week’s meeting. Lessees should be considered early in the process to save time and money.
“I think the county and the senior center are the two big names,” said Kimberly Flook, Lahaina Restoration Foundation deputy executive director. “If the county and senior center are hard ‘Nos,’ we will know that sooner than later.”
Summers said the next step is to update the draft community use plan with comments from the meeting. Also, planners will see if the County of Maui chooses to comment on the draft plan. Then it will be delivered to the Planning department.
Under state law, an environmental assessment will be required to restore the building.
Other work, such as developing community awareness and support, will also be needed.
Pioneer Mill’s 5,000-square-foot office was built in 1910, and a 4,200-square-foot annex was added in 1947.
Pioneer Mill Co. office building and its annex are listed with the Hawaiʻi Register of Historic Places.
The two-floor building has stood empty since the mill closed in 1999, and the county acquired it in 2007.
Participants last week agreed that action must be taken to benefit the community.
“This building is actually really negatively impacting the neighborhood — it’s abandoned, the windows are broken, the weeds are growing out of control,” said Summers. “It’s really unfortunate. The sad thing is: It is a county-owned space. It is county property. Something has really got to happen. Even at the most minimum is to update the exterior and get the landscaping done, which would be a huge community service.”