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Kamehameha Schools looking to revitalize Keauhou

Residents peruse displays at the Oct. 17 meeting with Kamehameha Schools officials. (Photo special to Hawaii 24/7)

Residents peruse displays at the Oct. 17 meeting with Kamehameha Schools officials. (Photo special to Hawaii 24/7)

Vision: Restoring the cultural landscape of Kahaluu ma kai to an intrinsically Hawaiian place in which opportunities for applied learning, teaching, and knowledge creation are rooted in tradition whiel advancing learners and lahui toward innovation, leadership and a sustainable future.

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

A year after it closed to guests, Keauhou Beach Hotel still sits empty, but plans to demolish the oceanside building are moving forward – as are Kamehameha Schools’ plans to revitalize the Keauhou region as a center for education and learning.

A handful of Kamehameha School staff was on hand at a pair of public meetings last week to share the vision and hear from area residents. More than 100 people attended the meetings.

The meetings included a review of plans for the resort grounds, improvement projects at Keauhou Bay and the educational complex project, which already is underway.

“This is an exciting time,” said Kaeo Duarte, strategic initiatives director. “Lots of pieces are coming together. We want to hear from the community”

The first task is lining up the necessary federal, state and county permits and permissions to demolish the hotel, which is slated for spring 2015.

“Our big priority is bringing down the hotel in a timely fashion,” Duarte said. “We don’t want another Kona Lagoon.”

Kona Lagoon – a hotel adjacent to Keauhou Beach Hotel — was closed and idle for the better part of two decades before it was razed in 2004.

Currently, officials are exploring the best way to dismantle the hotel building without negatively impacting the reef, the shoreline or the historical sites on the property.

Meanwhile, work continues to repair damage to facilities and infrastructure around Keauhou Bay, which was pounded by the March 11, 2011 tsunami.

“There are eyesores and we know that,” Duarte said. “We want to capitalize on the cultural cornerstones of this place – build trust and make amends.”

One building, which housed the Sea Paradise offices, will not be replaced. That plot of land will be naturalized and the Daughters of Hawaii are working to preserve and protect a historically significant cave in the hillside.

However, work is underway to rebuild the Keauhou Bay Yacht Club, with tenant Akule Supply Co. ready to move in early next year. It will include a general store and snack bar.

Kamehameha Schools officials said they recognize Keauhou Bay is a popular site for ocean recreation and want to retain that atmosphere for local residents.

Already restored to its original state is Kaopa Pond, which legend says was the water where Kamehameha III was revived after being stillborn.

In addition, work is underway to repair and fortify the sewer line at Keauhou Bay, which was exposed by the 2011 tsunami. The 30-year-old pipe will be replaced with a more flexible, stronger structure that will be buried deeper.

That project likely will take 12 to 16 months to complete.

Even as the Keauhou Bay beautification projects move along, the Kahaluu Manowai Educational Plan is blossoming.

Kamehameha Schools has been working with community partners to establish educational programs for West Hawaii students. The vision is to provide hands-on instruction using cultural practices and sites with a curriculum that includes math and science.

For example, West Hawaii students already have helped map a handful of the myriad cultural and historical sites in the Keauhou area. Students also pitched in to restore Hapaialii Heiau and Keeku Heiau on the Keauhou Beach Hotel property.

Linking the land with learning is a long-term project, Duarte said.

“We know where we want to head. We don’t have all the details yet,” he said. “We’re not going to pretend we know everything yet. It’s too important to get wrong. Now it’s, ‘how do we do this together?'”

While Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop’s edict was to create educational opportunities, Kamehameha Schools officials realize this doesn’t have to mean restricting lessons to classrooms.

“This is old, new territory,” Duarte said. “The new, big novelty is the extended, outdoor classroom. How do we create a landscape of learning?’

Duarte said the public meetings were a step toward honing the Kahaluu Manowai Educational Plan.

“We’ll lead where we can, but we want to be equal partners,” he said, noting all the stakeholders want post-secondary education success and rewarding careers for West Hawaii students.

Kamehameha Schools currently is consolidating its offices in Keauhou and expects to open in its central Keauhou Shopping Center location in November.

For further information or to comment on the plans, call 322-5533 or email

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Kahaluu (Photo courtesy of Randy Magnus)

Kahaluu (Photo courtesy of Randy Magnus)

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